Type 1 Diabetes: Families face long wait for Insulin Pump Therapy

Shane Canning with his mum Edelle.
Shane Canning with his mum Edelle.

The mother of a Derry schoolboy who is living with Type 1 Diabetes has made an impassioned plea to the Western Trust to give her son access to a life-changing treatment regime urgently.

Nine-years-old Shane Canning was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was just seven - and now faces a minimum of four injections and eight blood glucose tests (finger pricks) each day.

Even with this, his mum Edelle said Shane’s blood sugars remain erratic and the condition is having a devastating effect on him.

But Insulin Pump Therapy would dramatically reduce the frequency of injections and help keep his blood sugars more stable - as insulin is pumped directly into the blood stream via a port.

However, there is currently a lengthy waiting list to have the pumps assigned and fitted - and Edelle has been told that she faces more than a six months wait.

The pump would, Edelle said, make a huge difference to her son. “Shane loves judo - but we know that when he goes, his blood sugars will dip sometime in the 12 hours after his class. So we have to get up in the night to test his levels.

“He misses school because when his blood sugars are either too high or too low, he can become quite ill. If his bloods are high, he feels physically sick, struggles to concentrate or retain information. There are times we have to do extra homework to make up for him being ill in school, or missing school.

“If his bloods are low, he will become shaky and will need to sit down.”

Extreme highs or lows in blood sugars can have catastrophic consequences, for example causing either permanent nerve damage or risking Shane falling into a diabetic coma.

Shane has already had to give up football as it was proving too difficult to control his sugars - and has to face tough dietary controls.

He is currently under the support of a counsellor as he comes to terms with the lifelong condition. “An insulin pump would making life more manageable for Shane and for us,” Edelle added. “It would allow him ownership of his condition and to feel in control of what he is going through.”

A spokesperson for the Western Trust said: “New starts for insulin therapy have been prioritised depending on clinical need and NICE guidance.

Insulin pump therapy is not a matter of simply fitting a device to someone. It requires preparation of the person by the diabetes team to ensure that the necessary skills and knowledge they have are in place to use the pump safely and effectively. After the initial days of placing the pump device, significant input from diabetes specialist nurses and dieticians is required to tailor that therapy to the individual. This this process takes approximately three months for any single individual, but the full process of training the person to use the more advanced functions of the pump will take approximately six months.”

The Trust said it has currently met all its targets for fitting pumps for both adult and paediatric patients.