Georgia and Oliver both live with type 1 diabetes (T1D), but both have had very different journeys. You might see their faces around this June, as they’ve lent their stories as part of JDRF’s End of Financial Year Giving Appeal. The teenagers’ stories are told from the perspective of themselves and also their mums, who live with the anxiety and heartache that comes along with having a loved one with T1D.
Georgia was only six months old, a tiny baby, when T1D came into her life. Her devastated mum Helen couldn’t believe the words she was hearing at their local Central Coast hospital, as she fearfully cuddled sick little Georgia tighter. “They said it’s diabetes and to get on the helicopter and get to hospital in Westmead right now, because this baby could die,” remembers Helen.
In Sydney, Georgia’s family had a crash course in what T1D would involve for the rest of her life. Hardest for her mum – then and now – was having to inflict pain to save the child whose happiness was her world. Helen says: “On the ward they taught us to hold her between your arms and your knees, hold her legs and arms out of the way, to stick this needle into her. And she’d be screaming. But we had to learn.”
“Since then, for 14 years now, I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night, every night, to check her levels. If I’ve woken up at 6 o’clock and not done it because I was so tired, I’d be like, ‘has she had a hypo, is she alive?’”
Through all the difficulties, Georgia has shown her bravery and strength time and again. She was only three years old when she insisted on learning to do her own finger pricks and self-inject insulin, practicing first on teddy-bears. Since she was five, she’s been playing soccer and has become a goal-keeper to be reckoned with. She was her comp’s proud female junior player of 2017.
Like anyone, though, Georgia has her down days when she can’t help but ask “why me?”. Sometimes she just doesn’t want to deal with T1D anymore, and hates the unfairness and loneliness of being the only one out of her group of friends who has it.
“They can’t really understand,” she says, “and it gets frustrating when I just can’t do things, or I have to explain things, and people think I’m weird or something.”
But Georgia’s family made contact with JDRF early on, phoning in for advice. They’ve taken part in several JDRF One Walks to raise funds and awareness for T1D. This year, her mum is helping organising the event in their local area.
Georgia’s family gains a lot of hope from knowing we’re always here fighting our hardest for research breakthroughs to make life better for Georgia and others like her.
Says her mum: “Technology has improved out of sight in the last 15 years and JDRF has been involved in that. Now Georgia has an insulin pump and a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) and it’s been an awesome godsend. It will wake me up in the night if she’s low, and it gives me and her a break from the pressure of constantly checking her blood sugars.”
“We dream of the day JDRF rings us to say, we’ve got a cure for you, come in and get it’. Oh, that would be amazing.”
“But even if that doesn’t happen in Georgia’s lifetime, to know JDRF will continue their work well into the future is really important. It’s wonderful what JDRF are doing.”
If Georgia’s story struck a chord with you, please consider a tax-deductible gift by 30 June 2018.
Oliver found out he had T1D after falling gravely ill when he was 15. He tells his story:
“The learning curve I was thrown on was huge, on top of all the physical changes I was feeling. Suddenly I had to think about everything I did in relation to my blood sugars – eating, sport, even homework. But I refused to let it interfere with what I loved best, playing basketball. Once that was sorted I hoped everything else would fall into place, and it did. I feel I know my body now better than any doctor or endocrinologist. I’ve managed my diabetes myself at every stage, and I’m proud of that.
But living with T1D today as an 18-year-old who has just finished school has not got any easier.
I truly hate diabetes and what it has done to me. I just don’t let that stop me doing what I love. I’m like all my mates but I manage my ‘normal’ a bit differently.
It also helps knowing JDRF is there. I think JDRF is a spectacular organisation and without their support my life would be so much harder. Knowing I’m not alone with this condition and there are people continually searching for a cure is incredible. Every day they’re striving to help people like me. They have also been really supportive of my family. I try to contribute as much as I can towards JDRF because of this. I hope reading my story will inspire you to do the same.”
Kelly, Oliver’s mum says, “I feel incredibly proud of my son. He makes having T1D seem effortless. But my heart often aches for him as I watch him search for a less sore site on his tummy for his next injection. He never complains, although there’s no respite.
Our family lives in hope that one day he and other sufferers will be relieved of this incredible burden. We constantly read JDRF reports on research advancements and have done since we learned of the good work they do. And we’re heartened by the progress being made. We feel confident a cure will be found in Oliver’s lifetime.”
People with T1D like Georgia and Oliver are strong. They have to be. But they don’t deserve everything T1D puts them through, day in, day out. Please give by 30 June to claim your deduction this tax year and create the future so many are longing for.