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Diabetes doesn’t have to be the end, it can be the beginning

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This summer it will be the sailors’ life for a group of children who will be swabbing the deck of the

Spirit of Bermuda, hoisting the main sail and checking their blood sugar often.

The Bermuda Diabetes Association is currently fundraising to send 15 young people ages 11 to 20 with type one diabetes on a five day life-changing voyage called Sailing on Insulin.

Debbie Jones of the BDA said the idea for Sailing on Insulin was inspired by a similar voyage they did with type two diabetic boys who were extremely overweight. The programme was so successful many of the boys from that programme are now running marathons or have become interested in sailing as a career.

“Because of that we thought it would be a remarkable opportunity to take our young people with type one diabetes and expose them to the same type of idea,” said Mrs Jones. “Kids with type one diabetes are already self disciplined. They have to be to live with type one diabetes every day. They still need some education, but in a fun way. They are young. They don’t want to be lectured to. They may need a little bit of revision on living in a healthy, positive way. They will be manning the ship, and working as a team.”

She said one of the best things about the programme was the comradeship that develops between the crew members.

To help raise money for Sailing on Insulin, Tiffany Richardson and Greg van der Made, adults with type one diabetes, will be running as part of a relay team in this year’s Appleby May 24 Half Marathon Derby.

Also running the relay will be nutritionist Courtney Minors and Ardie Morgan.

Ms Richardson knows what it is like to miss out on activities because of diabetes.

She was diagnosed the summer she was 11 years old. After a week in the hospital where everyone told her she could lead a normal life with proper management of the disease, her government summer camp refused to have her back because she carried syringes. Her mother fought back by creating Camp Honeybee for children with diabetes.

“I liked the Camp Honeybee concept that we all got together and shared our stories, but the camp wasn’t able to challenge us,” she said. “It was more about playing games and volleyball. Sailing is such a huge exercise in terms of sailing and affecting your blood sugars. To be in an environment with other diabetics and challenging yourself, mentally and physically, will be amazing for the children.”

It’s no small thing for a type one diabetic to take part in a half marathon. It takes a lot of preparation.

“Most people would just wake up on the day of the race, feel a little nervous, tie their sneakers and be off,” she said. “If you are preparing for any sporting event you have to have your basalts and insulin ratios right and make sure you have eaten enough. I ran my first 5K race recently. Through the support of my endocrinologist Dr Annabel Fountain I am at the point where I can do this. I mastered equestrian riding many years ago. Running is the new chapter in my life.”

She plans to push her three-year-old daughter, Riley, part of the way in her stroller.

Mr van der Made will be running a relay with her. He has run several May 24 Half Marathon derbies already. When he runs he always wears a T-shirt with a diabetes slogan on it. People often express surprise when they learn he has diabetes as he plays hockey, weight trains and runs twice a week.

“I want people to know that if I can do it, they can do it,” he said.

In order to run the race he will have friends posted along the route to help him monitor his health and do fly-by blood sugar testing.

“I didn’t have an opportunity like Sailing on Insulin as a kid,” he said. “I just thought how wicked it would be for these children to be together and share some stories, the same way we do as adults.”

Ben Hollis, also a type one diabetic since childhood plans to be a counsellor on the voyage.

“People need to understand that diabetics can do anything that anyone else can do if they manage their disease properly,” he said.

To make a donation to the Sailing on Insulin programme go to www.bermudadiabetes.org or make a donation through www.premierticketsglobal.com .

Tiffany Richardson and Greg van der Made (Photo by Mark Tatem)
Tiffany Richardson and Greg van der Made (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published May 09, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 08, 2013 at 6:25 pm)

Diabetes doesn’t have to be the end, it can be the beginning

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