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Informal help and advice for young people living with Type 1 diabetes

'People living with the condition don’t get any days off because it has to be managed 24/7'

Attending the Type 1 Diabetes Clinic are: James Fallis, Sinead Hannan, Arlene Barton, operations manager, ABC Council, Jamie Henry, Lord Mayor, Councillor Paul Greenfield, Edel Magee, Paula Connell, Diabetes Specialist Nurse, Blinne McGee, Gavin Griffiths, Diathlete, Dr Sarinda Millar, Andrea Chinchilla, Paula Chinchilla , Sandra Greene, Joanne Johnston, Hannah Moore, Megan McKeown and Katie McAuley

Children and young people with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) have been taking part in clinics being trialled over the last few months at South Lake Leisure Centre in Craigavon.

Organised by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council in partnership with the Southern Health and Social Care Trust (SHSCT) team, a number of age-banded group clinics were held in the centre rather than a hospital setting.

DiAthlete founder Gavin Griffiths, an ultra-endurance athlete who was diagnosed with the condition at eight years old and now educates and encourages young people, ran  sessions with the young people and parents/carers, along with colleagues from the League of Diabetes and members of the health trust team.

Officers from the sports development department of council also held activity sessions, while staff at the leisure centre offered a tour of the facilities.

“This pilot programme has been a fantastic success and we have already had some brilliant feedback from the young people who attended and their parents,” said the Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Paul Greenfield.

“The idea was to bring patients and families together outside of a hospital setting to a more informal, fun venue, to offer some peer support, a chance to get to know each other and some activities and talks that everyone would find interesting and helpful.”

T1D is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s own immune system attacks cells in the pancreas which produce insulin. It is not known what causes it, but it is not linked to lifestyle choices and cannot be prevented.

People living with T1D diabetes have to check their blood glucose levels and take insulin via injection or an insulin pump multiple times per day to stay alive. They also need to count carbohydrate in foods they are eating and work out how much insulin to give. Exercise, stress, sickness and even simply growing, to name but a few, all affect blood glucose levels.

“T1D is a relentless condition. People living with T1D don’t get any days off because it has to be managed 24/7,” said Dr Sarinda Millar, consultant paediatrician and lead for T1D service in SHSCT.

“At each session we had diabetes specialist nurses, diabetes specialist dietitians and doctors (from both paediatric and adult T1D teams where applicable) present as well as members from the SHSCT psychology team.

“For the older age groups podiatrists from SHSCT and representatives from the regional retinal screening programme attended so the young people could have their annual checks done on the same day.

“With some educational and informative talks on T1D management including sick day rules and hypoglycaemia management, information on insulin pumps/continuous glucose monitoring systems, DUK, JDRF and support from T1DCAT, the trust’s charity, the sessions really were a great success.”

It is hoped that more of these clinics will run in the future.

They key signs and symptoms of diabetes are the four Ts: thirst – drinking a lot, toilet – passing urine more than usual, thinner – losing weight, and tired- not as much energy as usual.

Anyone experiencing any of these symptoms should contact their GP as soon as possible.

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