Controlling diabetes a family affair

Blenheim family, Coreen, Kaylee, 10, and Stewart Metcalfe. Kaylee has type 1 diabetes.
Blenheim family, Coreen, Kaylee, 10, and Stewart Metcalfe. Kaylee has type 1 diabetes.

Living with diabetes is not easy for anyone, with there still being many misconceptions and a fair lack of understanding about the condition.

Being a young child with diabetes is therefore a particularly daunting reality that also has a huge impact on parents.

But with the correct information and the willingness to work hard, the condition can be managed, allowing children to live normal lives.

Type 1 diabetes sufferer Kaylee Metcalfe, 10, is lucky to have a mum and dad who devote enormous amounts of time to helping her manage her condition, with mum Coreen giving up her work as a radiographer to provide full-time care.

As she grows up, Kaylee will be able to manage her diabetes more herself, but for now a large part of the job falls to her parents.

"When she was diagnosed we were shocked, devastated," said Kaylee's dad, Stewart, a surgeon at Wairau Hospital. "Even though we both have medical training, there was a lot we didn't know about managing diabetes."

Tuesday next week sees the start of national diabetes week, with the focus this year being on children with diabetes.

"Daily life involves controlling diabetes and not letting diabetes control us. That said, looking after a child with type 1 diabetes is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, 365-day-a-year exercise by the whole family - mostly by Mum and Kaylee," said Stewart.

Life has been made more flexible and more easily controlled by Kaylee and her parents with an insulin pump replacing the daily injections. The pump is constantly connected to Kaylee and lets her control her own insulin usage.

"I check my blood sugar and type it into the pump, then I eat and add up the carbs and type that into the pump and it calculates how much insulin I need," explained Kaylee, who was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of just 2 and has been using an insulin pump for four years.

Before having the pump her life revolved around a routine of eating certain foods at exact times, and having insulin injections at least three times a day.

The carbohydrates in the food the family eat are all calculated beforehand, so Kaylee and her parents know what information to input into the pump.

"Kaylee is getting really good about managing her diabetes herself," said Coreen. "But there is still a long way to go until she can do it all herself."

One example she pointed out was late night blood sugar tests, and giving Kaylee a sugar boost. "She is so used to it now she can basically drink some sweet Milo in her sleep."

Other factors affect Kaylee's blood sugar level, such as her emotions - becoming angry or irritable and being very happy or excited.

The excellent care that she gets as well as her insulin pump has meant that Kaylee can live an almost entirely normal life.

"I have really good friends. They are interested about my insulin pump, but they don't treat me any differently," said Kaylee.

The Marlborough Express