Hampden Street School students Lily Barton, 10, Harry Easton, 6, Bella Palmer, 9 and Willa McCullough, 6, all have type-1 diabetes and are helping their peers understand what it means to be living with the condition. Photo: Supplied.

Going blue for diabetes awareness

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Lily Barton’s friends all think it’s pretty cool that she has an insulin pump.
They are so used to it now that it’s just a part of life.

But sometimes people still stare when Lily has to administer insulin which goes through a tube in her stomach and then into her pancreas.

“I got bored, so now I do a speech at assembly to tell everyone about it,” Lily says.

That speech happening at Hampden St School today as part of “Wear Blue Day” – a fund-raising event during November Diabetes Awareness month to increase the awareness and impact of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, and raise funds for Nelson Youth Branch of Diabetes New Zealand.

“Diabetes is the fastest growing health crisis faced both globally and in New Zealand – 250-300 young people are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes every year,” says Heather Bates, whose six-year-old son Harry was diagnosed when he was three.

“It’s definitely manageable but a lot of variables are involved,” she says.

With 40 new people diagnosed every day, Type 2 diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate and affects large numbers of school-aged children who will have parents living with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

“Hampden Street School has four Type 1 diabetic children on their roll,” Heather says. “Very hard working and caring teacher aides support these four children with their blood glucose management and insulin injections, throughout their day at school. “

A person with Type 1 diabetes can have their blood glucose tested seven to eight times a day with multiple insulin doses a day, at meal times. Even more monitoring is needed during sickness or sporting activities.

“It’s a 24/7 job being a Type 1 diabetic,” says Heather.

Lily’s mum Jess says she first noticed her daughter wasn’t well when she was three years old. She started drinking lots of water and going to the bathroom regularly. Lily also got very moody.

The danger, she says, is that doctors will sometimes misdiagnose.

“Type one can go into a coma within 3 weeks if symptoms are not picked up and they get sent away, thinking it’s a cold or bladder infection.”

The parents and the students hope that by raising awareness they can help others see the signs before it’s too late.

But with all the things to manage Jess says it doesn’t stop Lily from doing what she loves – tap dancing twice a week, dance competitions and karate.