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Brielle shows you can live well with Type 1 diabetes

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November is Diabetes Awareness Month. The Rego family shared its story to help raise awareness of the importance of diabetes education.

Living well: Lexi Rego and her daughter Brielle in the kitchen at the Bermuda Diabetes Association (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)

At the age of just seven Brielle Rego is a shining example of how a child can live a life well with diabetes.

She proudly told The Royal Gazette how she taught her school friends about her condition, how she might feel dizzy or hungry when she has low blood sugar levels and even showing them how to change her glucose monitor.

Brielle was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just under a year ago but thanks to the support of her family, friends and the Bermuda Diabetes Association, she is a confident, happy little girl who’s able to enjoy everything her friends do, with properly management.

“I feel special,” Brielle said. “My friends ask me at school how it feels and I tell them it’s OK, I feel amazing. I have friends I call my ‘low buddies’ who can help me if my levels are low.”

Support system: Brielle Rego, 7, is living a life well with Type 1 diabetes. She is pictured hugging Rufus, the bear with diabetes (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)

Today is World Diabetes Day, part of November’s Diabetes Awareness Month, and the Rego family shared their story to help highlight the importance of education, early diagnosis and support.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a virus attacks the insulin-producing cells in the body. Symptoms can include thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, weight loss and hunger. Those with a family history of diabetes are more at risk of developing it.

Type 1 diabetes facts

There is no prevention and no cure for Type 1 diabetes. Insulin must be administered to replace that which the pancreas is unable to produce.

There has been a recent rise in Type 1 childhood diabetes in Bermuda and worldwide, which is potentially linked to Covid-19.

Type 1 diabetes is different to Type 2 diabetes which is often linked to lifestyle factors such as being inactive or being overweight. Type 1 is also linked to family history.

Lexi Rego, Brielle’s mother, explained that there is no history of diabetes in her family and some of the symptoms her daughter experienced in the run up to her diagnosis could have been explained by other factors.

She explained: “Brielle was diagnosed on December 4, 2021 – I will never forget the day. For two or three months prior to diagnosis, she wasn’t her normal self. On a normal day she is very creative, very crafty but she was quite lethargic.

“She also had frequent urination but we have a family history of small bladders so that wasn’t a red flag in itself. She typically drank a lot of water anyway. Around the end of November she had cold and flu symptoms, and wasn’t getting any better.”

Ms Rego took Brielle to her family doctor and mentioned her daughter had lost weight. A blood test was ordered but Brielle’s symptoms worsened quickly.

“On the Thursday I kept her home from school. By that evening and into Friday morning she was vomiting constantly – we thought it was the flu. By Saturday morning she couldn’t stand up so my husband carried her to the car and took her to the Emergency Room.

“With almost certainty, before getting our test results, they told us she was in diabetic ketoacidosis – her blood sugar had been so high for so long and the symptoms were textbook.”

Brielle was given insulin and her health quickly improved.

Ms Rego said: “There was a sense of relief because we now knew why she was sick all the time.”

Sara Bosch de Noya, diabetes educator at the Bermuda Diabetes Association, said young children tend to have a certain mental resilience.

She said: “The first day Brielle came in we put a sensor in her arm and she drew a picture of a heart on it. You know how children have a different mindset – we call them kid warriors. Brielle said ‘show me what I’ve got to do and I’ll do it’ and she did it with a big smile on her face.”

Ms Rego said some days are still a struggle.

“The fact she has to have multiple injections a day, that she has to be pulled aside to get a scan, she needs to check her sugars every time she eats … there are huge life changes that come with it. But we want her to be a kid – she can have that candy bar – but I have to account for it.”

Thanks to modern technology it is becoming easier to manage diabetes. Brielle’s monitor allows her mother to see her levels on her iPhone every minute of the day. There is no need for her skin to be pricked to produce a droplet of blood as used to be the case.

A continuous glucose monitoring device (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)

With a tear in her eye, Ms Rego said the education and support that the Bermuda Diabetes Association provides for her family has been “invaluable”.

“Sara was messaging me on the day of her diagnosis, she was there the second day and on the third day she put on her sensor. We had books, products and glucose tasks given to us. We couldn’t have done it by ourselves.

“I think there is a huge need for education and advocacy, and for parents to be aware of the symptoms, even when there is no history of diabetes in your family.”

The Bermuda Diabetes Association is providing free health screenings today at its premises at 22 Princess Street, Pembroke. There will also be a tag day and denim day in the City of Hamilton on Friday, November 18 to raise funds for the charity. For more information visit the website here.

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Published November 14, 2022 at 12:35 pm (Updated November 14, 2022 at 12:35 pm)

Brielle shows you can live well with Type 1 diabetes

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