Diabetes startles mum
When Julie Potatau’s eight-yearold son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, she was left ‘‘shocked’’ by the discovery.
She said finding out a few months later that her six-year-old daughter had the same condition was even harder to take.
Therefore, on Tuesday, the Timaru mum decided to mark World Diabetes Day by opening up about how to spot the illness and how to live with it.
The mother of two, who works as an administrator at Timaru Hospital, said her son, Quinn, was diagnosed just before Christmas.
A range of symptoms had prompted her to take him to the doctor.
‘‘He had been drinking excessively and peeing excessively for about six weeks, and then he started getting a sore tummy and he lost weight.
‘‘That’s when I took him to the doctor, it was like a five minute consultation.
‘‘They did a finger prick test [and said], you can go straight to hospital, we think he has got diabetes.
‘‘I was very shocked, initially I thought about diabetes ... but I sort of dismissed it because I didn’t really think about kids getting it.’’
Then six months after her son’s diagnosis, her six-year-old daughter, Jade, got up to pee two nights in a row.
Straight away she contacted the South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB), Jade was tested, and found to have the same illness.
Both Jade and Quinn had been ‘‘very resilient and brave’’, she said.
However having diabetes had changed both of their lives forever.
‘‘You have to do a lot more planning, it affects every aspect of your life, they can’t just go, ‘I’m going off to go for a bike ride’.’’
Potatau said she had to check with her son about ‘‘what have you had to eat, have a test before you go, have you got your kit, take a drink, what time will you be back?
‘‘Exercise, food, insulin, you have to balance everything.’’
The treatment regimen of both children was also pretty strict, she said.
‘‘Jade has two injections of insulin a day, and about six to eight finger pricks ... that will decide how much insulin we give her.
‘‘Quinn has a big dose of long acting insulin in the morning, and he just has a little bit of fast acting to cover meals ... he has about six to eight finger pricks a day.
Given that she ‘‘didn’t know anything about diabetes before it was thrust upon us’’, Potatau said it was important to ‘‘make people more aware of the symptoms’’,
The main signs were excessive thirst and urination, blurred vision, weight loss, stomach pains and vomiting, she said.
‘‘Especially when Jade was diagnosed I had people saying to me, ‘ what did you do when you were pregnant, what were you feeding them’?
‘‘I was like ‘it’s not that, it’s an auto-immune disease, I can’t do anything about it’.’’
SCDHB diabetes nurse specialist, Karen Tollan, said there was ‘‘just a bit of misunderstanding about the two different types’’ of diabetes.
‘‘Type 1 is an auto-immune disease, the body destroys the pancreas, the area of the body that makes insulin,
‘‘People with type two diabetes have insulin but it’s less affective, the body becomes resistant to that insulin.
‘‘People say you have eaten too much sugar, for people with type 1 that’s not true, sugar, obesity, definitely affects type 2.’’
The focus of this year’s World Diabetes Day is the number of woman living with the disease, estimated at around 200 million globally.