For the 3rd year running, Anders are taking part in the one million step challenge for Diabetes UK. This year we have an even bigger motivation to do it. In 2020 just after Anders went through an acquisition, and COVID struck with the country going into lockdown reshaping the way we work, the life of one of our team and her family changed forever as her daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
Julie Bicker has been with the company for 16 years and like the rest of us, began working from home in March 2020. But as Materials Co-Ordinator, she had the challenging task of helping move all shipments from our London hub which was in lockdown to our newly acquired Witney hub to ensure our customers continued to get their goods. She also began homeschooling 3 year old Isabelle and 8 year old Jacob, whilst working fulltime – which as many people across the country know is not an easy task.
Slowly but surely, my husband and I noticed a change in our daughter, Isabelle. She stopped wanting to go for walks, had a lack of energy, her skin changed, she lost weight and had mood swings which we originally put down to the new situation we found ourselves in. However, the more the symptoms went on the more we became concerned and decided to seek help, which led me one morning to the NHS and Diabetes UK websites. The more I read, the more I associated other symptoms that Isabelle had been experiencing with Diabetes. She was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in June 2020.
I remember after the diagnosis asking how it could have happened, did we do something wrong? And although there is a strong suggestion it is genetic (we have 2nd generation family members on both sides with Type 1), it has not been definitively linked.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, believed to be triggered by a virus, leading the immune system to attack and destroy healthy tissue and cells. In the case of diabetes it destroys the insulin producing cells.
Isabelle’s glucose levels can be much higher than they should be. Glucose is usually kept in check by the pancreas producing Insulin, but Isabelle’s pancreas is not working so insulin needs to be given by injection at least 5 times a day. When and how much insulin to give depends on a number of factors and making those decisions is extremely hard. Too much could result in an adverse reaction called a hypo (going low) or a hyper (going high) which can include disorientation, anxiety, stomach pain, shaking and lethargy to name a few – which for a 4 year old is a very scary experience and can lead to long term health implications.
I knew next to nothing about Diabetes just over a year ago. What followed was a crash course in diabetes management. How to inject, how to adjust insulin, what food has what impact on glucose levels. How to deal with hypos and hypers. Every day is still a learning curve for me and my family, as parents to a Type 1 diabetic child we can make up to 180 additional decisions throughout a day or night. The Diabetes UK website is an amazing resource. When Isabelle was first diagnosed, the answers to most of our questions were there and easy to understand.
School life is a balancing act. Providing packed lunches with carefully controlled carb counts, insulin pens, hypo kits and a glucose tracker which monitors Isabelle’s levels is essential.
I am constantly anxious about her at school, if her levels are too low or too high when I drop her off, I worry and am on call with the school in case they require additional advice. No two days are the same, what works one day may not work the next, so it is a never ending monitoring game.
Every day we are juggling her levels to make sure she doesn’t have a hypo which can be caused by not enough carbs, too much insulin, too much exercise or adversely a hyper: if her medication is not effective, she has too many carbs, is stressed, excited or anxious.
The teachers and staff have been trained how to monitor and administer insulin and what to look out for, they do an amazing job but this is an ongoing requirement and new staff need to be trained with every new school year.
Help and Support
The dedicated 24 hour helpline provided by our local hospital is invaluable, you have an emergency or a question whatever time of day or night, they are there on the other end of the phone, even if you just need some emotional support. The research funded by charities like Diabetes UK has led us to an easier path than many before us, I dread to think how difficult it was years ago, and it will only keep improving thanks to these charities.
The Diabetes UK website also have information on local support groups, they provide a helpline as we have with our hospital, they arrange events for families dealing with Type 1 diabetes, the search engine is a great support if you do not understand all the new terminology you are faced with.
We are looking forward to attending some of the family events that Diabetes UK provide, once COVID allows. This will allow us to meet other Type 1 families to share experiences and give us quality time as a family as we are supported by trained volunteers, including healthcare professionals.
Isabelle and her older brother Jacob can enjoy organized activities including wall climbing, orienteering and archery.
My colleagues have been very supportive, stepping in to help when I need to leave the office to support Isabelle and allowing me to be more flexible with my working pattern.
So, that’s why Julie and her family, plus Team Anders are taking part in the 1 million step challenge, to enable Diabetes UK to support families like Julie’s benefit from 24 hour support helpline, local support groups, conferences and invaluable family events and continue the vital research to find a cure for this.
Research has improved, but there is still so much more to learn and improve. A day when a child does not have to have daily injections to maintain a healthy lifestyle is one which we all hope for.
Please click here to go to our Team page and see how we are doing. You can support any one of our Team by donating what you can - every little helps and we would very much appreciate your support to keep us going! Look out on our Social Channels for updates during our challenge.