Schoolgirl challenges Health Minister to improve diabetic care

Abby Davidson. (2211Sl50) Photo: Stephen Latimer
Abby Davidson. (2211Sl50) Photo: Stephen Latimer

A Derry schoolgirl, who says her life could be made much easier with access to insulin pump therapy, has written to Health Minister Edwin Poots

At eleven years old school girl Abby Davidson is all too aware of the potential complications of Type 1 Diabetes - a condition she was diagnosed with a year ago.

“If your blood sugars go too low you can collapse. Or if they go too high you can collapse, go into a coma. And sometimes you don’t wake up,” she said, matter of factly.

Added to this the fact that each time her sugars drop too low or go too high she risks long-term complications setting in - risks which could include losing her sight and nerve damage to her feet or limbs which could, in the worst scenario, result in amputation of her limbs.

And yet, as the school girl - who is just starting her first year at Thornhill College - points out, Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK which does not have a dedicated Service Framework for Diabetes.

And type one diabetics in Northern Ireland face longer waits than their UK counterparts to access equipment which can greatly improve the monitoring of their condition - and the control of their blood sugar levels.

This is why Abby has taken it on herself to write to Health Minister Edwin Poots to ask him why more funding isn’t available to people with diabetes.

“I don’t think people realise how serious it is,” Abby said. “Or how much it affects everyday life.”

Currently the 11 year old has to inject herself with insulin five or six times a day.

“Each time I inject, it hurts,” Abby said, “I have to hold the needle in my leg for ten seconds each time and it stings.

“If I had an insulin pump - which you attach to you leg, or your hip or your tummy - you only need to change the needles every three days. Apart from that it is a case of hitting a few buttons and the insulin being delivered.”

Although she has only been injecting insulin for a year,Abby - a typical pre-teen - already has scars on her legs, and cuts and bruises from injecting.She is particularly worried about maintaining her regime - and standing out as “different” when she starts at her new school next week.

“I’m writing to the Health Minister because I want him to understand what it is like to live with Type 1 Diabetes,” she said. “My life would be so much easier if I had an insulin pump - but the waiting list is around 18 months at the moment.”

Diabetes UK Northern Ireland National Director Iain Foster said; “Diabetes UK believes that every child with Type 1 diabetes, who would benefit from an insulin pump, should have access to insulin pump therapy in a reasonable time.

“We are aware that there is a variety of waiting times between trusts which is unacceptable and would call on health trusts to make sure there are plans in place to be able to issue insulin pumps that have been purchased already.”