On 17th October 2013 Brookes pancreas suddenly stopped producing insulin and she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes - She was only 15 years old!
Since then she has had to learn to test her blood glucose levels by doing several finger-prick tests everyday and has also had to learn how to inject herself before every meal she eats and also before she goes to bed. Type 1 is an auto-immune disease where the body attacks the insuling producing cells in the pancreas. Brookes pancreas does not produce insulin and it will never produce insulin again. Brooke did nothing to cause this, it could not have been prevented, it cannot be reversed or fixed. It will not get better with age, she cannot outgrow it and it is never truly under control. It is a lifelong condition. It was not caused by eating too much sugar, poor eating habits or lack of exercise. It is not a simple condition and sadly.......there is currently no cure.
High Blood Sugar - (Hyperglycaemia) All carbohydrates we eat are converted into sugar and this is where we get our energy from. Without insulin the sugar cannot get into the bodies cells and it just flows through the bloodstream and causes damage to the organs. Brooke cannot produce insulin so she must manage her blood suger evey minute of every day. It is very difficult to stay in the safe blood glucose levels. Every time she eats her blood sugar rises, even with the injected insulin. Every time she goes high it damages her body just a little and the damage can add up. She is so young and still has her whole life ahead of her. Over time these episodes of high blood sugar can add up and have a very damaging effect on her kidneys, eyes, nerves in her feet and heart.
Low Blood Sugar - (Hypoglycaemia) In a person without diabetes the body secretes just the right amount of insulin to keep the blood glucose levels stable and within a safe range. As Brooke is injecting a set amount of insulin this will keep on working even if she is going low and entering the 'too low' stage. Low blood sugars happen suddenly and can lead to trembling, sweating, confusion, seizures, passing out and in severre cases can lead to coma and death. Sadly we see high numbers and low numbers everyday. Scary numbers like 2.1, or 2.8 or 3 (Normal is 4.0 - 8.0). These numbers mean she has to dash to get glucose tablets and juice or biscuits to bring herself out of the danger zone. Sometimes shes so low that she cannot do this herself, her hands are shaking, shes very confused, unable to speak coherantly ....and at any age thats a very very scary place to be.
The Nights - Type 1 families hover in the uncertainty of this disease. Its unpredictability, its constant looming over our lives. We live with the reality that 1 in 20 people with Type 1 diabetes die in their sleep from low blood sugars. It is this reason that we have not slept though the night since the day of her diagnoses and the sleep we do get is light and broken with worry. Nights are the worst.
The Worry -What if I sleep through the night when she’s needed me. What if ive not heard her efforts to call me to help. What if I miss a sign and think she is dozing off watching the telly when she is really passing out from low? What if we calculate the insulin wrong and give to much or too little? What if .. What if ..What if something were to happen to her… it would be because of something we missed or did wrong – and I could not live with that. We do not have a safety net it is just us, Brooke and Mum, neither of whom are doctors, or have any medical training, she relies on me and I try to guide her as best I can. Her life is in our hands, and just a little miscalculation, lack of concentration or sleepy error could be devastating. There is not a minute of the day that I don’t think about those what if’s, there isn’t a minute in the day when I don’t need to worry, plan or react. As Brooke gets older she will need to care for herself, and that opens a whole new world filled with so much worry. Now our lives are broken up – day by day, blood sugar to blood sugar, injection to injection.
At first, I dreaded the blood checks – dreaded the click of the needle and drop of blood but now I look at them differently. I view it that for that instant, that one fleeting second, I know what is going on inside her body and know that she is safe. But, within minutes the looming danger returns and the worry floods over me and I look ahead to the next blood check for that one fleeting moment of relief. It’s what I hold on to – I need to be strong for her.
A Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD) Can be trained to alert us when her blood sugars are rising and falling and even wake us up at night if she is in danger. Brooke's DAD (diabetic Alert Dog) will be able to sense when her blood sugars are going too high and too low well before any symptoms or the meters can even register the change! A dogs nose is thousands of times more sensitive than ours and can detect the minute changes that take place in Brookes blood around 30 minutes prior to a blood glucose meter. A DAD for Brooke would mean peace of mind for her, it will allay some of her anxiety regarding low and high blood sugar attacks and will give her the independence and ability to be able to play sports, attend all her dance classes, go to friends houses, hang out and most importantly just be a teenager again! A DAD would mean we have an extra line of defense against this disease that looms over us every minute of every day threatening to take my daughter when we are not looking, in the middle of the night, at school, at a party, a moment where she is away from me and also when she is alone.
Quite simply a DAD can save Brookes life!
Through fundraising already carried out we have secured a seven month old chocolate labrador, Buddy and we are keen to get going with his specialised training. However this training is very expensive and currently costs around £240 per day for each full day of training. Each day of formal training must be practised each day at home for a number of weeks before moving onto another day of formal training to perfect the scent training needed. Our specialised dog trainer believes the scent work can be completed within three months and with around 4-5 days of formal training.
Buddy has his inital assessment with the dog trainer on 11th July as he will be 9.5 months old then and we are very excited and looking forward to this date.