Castle Acre pupil an inspiration on World Diabetes Day

Junior Diabetes Feature, LtoR, Tom Woolford, Anna Hutton, Mary Woolford (3.5), Sonny Woolford (8), Teddy Woolford (6), ANL-140911-181737009
Junior Diabetes Feature, LtoR, Tom Woolford, Anna Hutton, Mary Woolford (3.5), Sonny Woolford (8), Teddy Woolford (6), ANL-140911-181737009
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Teddy Woolford appeared to be an ordinary, healthy, happy little boy until he turned three and started developing a couple of unusual habits.

His mum Anna Hutton, 41, started to notice that Teddy constantly had a raging thirst.

“He was drinking a lot of water,” Anna said. “I was aware of it for a while, until it started getting quite extreme.

“He would having a cup of water, put it down on the table and want another one right away, which he’d also drink straight down.

“Then he started to needing the toilet all the time and we’d hear him getting up in the night to go and while he was there he’d be drinking water out of the tap. It was all quite gradual but it got to the point where I knew it wasn’t right.”

Anna, whose daughter Mary was newborn at the time and her elder son Sonny, aged five, decided to take Teddy to the GP, but before she did, she looked up his symptoms on the internet.

Immediately she realised he could have diabetes, but she had no idea that the diagnosis would affect every aspect of the family’s life.

The GP pricked Teddy’s finger to test the level of glucose in his blood and it was so high it was off the monitor’s scale.

“Straight away the GP said ‘he’s type one diabetic, he will be dependent on insulin injections for the rest of his life, there is no cure. This is the first day of a very different life’.

“We went straight to the hospital for more tests, involving lots of needles in arms, which was very traumatic with a little one and from that point on he needed an injection every time he ate.

“It was the start of getting up every hour in the night to finger prick test him and the start of our education.

“When he came home we were having to run around the house after him to give him these injections.

“He was sore and we would have to hold him down to do it. It was very frightening and very distressing.”

Type 1 diabetes is not caused by lifestyle or diet and there is no known way to avoid its onset. Sufferers’ bodies do not properly produce insulin, the hormone that controls the amount of glucose in the blood.

Life with diabetes, is a constant battle with complex calculations to try to balance blood glucose by counting the carbohydrates consumed and insulin units to match. Almost everything Teddy eats has to be precisely weighed first.

In children especially, blood glucose can yo yo and parents walk a tightrope knowing that failing to minimise the highs and lows can result in long-term organ or eye damage, coma or even death.

Anna, of West Acre, said: “It is just so different from the carefree way you can live without having to worry about your child’s well-being every minute.

“When your child wants a snack, you have to say ‘ you can have something, but I’ll have to give you an injection’ and it’s very, very tiring. He needed to be finger pricked 24 times a day, practically every hour and that goes through the night as well.

“The hospital were great and everything was done to help us, but it was about six months of feeling utterly sad and exhausted by it all.

“There was so much to learn and the hospital fed us information bit by bit because you can’t cope with it all in one go.”

Like other parents of children with Type 1 diabetes, Anna together with Teddy’s dad Tom, also 41, had to fight through that sadness and become an expert on Teddy’s condition.

Anna said: “If his blood glucose levels dip, which they do regularly, he has to have treatment.

“If he does any exercise at all, even running around the living room with his sister for five minutes, it can dip very fast and if he has a biscuit it can rise enormously.

“We carry glucose tablets everywhere and as soon as he goes low he has got to sit down for ten minutes and have some tablets. That happens once or twice every day.”

In addition, Teddy now constantly wears an insulin pump, which delivers doses of the hormone as required and has alleviated the need for injections. The pump, about the size of a mobile phone, delivers insulin via a cannula that sits under the skin. The cannula can be left in for two or three days but then has to be repositioned somewhere else on the body.

Three months ago, Teddy also got a continuous blood glucose monitor. It’s another device he wears on his body and it has an alarm to alert him if his blood glucose goes too high or low, reducing the number of times Anna and Tom have to check via a finger prick.

Anna said: “We have been given the monitor for six months on a trial basis, then the consultant has to make a case that it is improving our lives in order for us to be allowed to keep it.

“I don’t set an alarm to wake me up at night now and in the three months we have had it, I had a five hour slot of sleep for the first time in three years.”

The monitor and the pump Teddy has are not available to all – each hospital offers a different level of service - and Anna wants to see that changed.

She supports the campaign by Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF, which is calling on the Government to increase research spending.

The charity aims to find a cure and although Anna does not dare to dream so high, she does wish for improved technology or drugs to make life easier for Teddy and other sufferers.

At Castle Acre Primary School, where Teddy is a pupil, he has to have a one-to-one support worker to constantly monitor and treat his condition in the way Anna and Tom do at home.

Anna is never more than 15 minutes away for the moments when something unexpected happens or Teddy’s pump needs to be reattached.

Anna said: “Teddy is extremely happy and very healthy. There’s nothing he doesn’t do, he swims, he’s very active, we try to have as normal a life as possible.

“We never wanted to keep him from doing any of the things he wants to do but it just means we have to put a lot of work into it.”

Michael Connellan, Senior Media Manager at JDRF, said: “A lot of people unaffected by type 1 diabetes don’t understand how serious a condition it is. And it can be especially hard for a child – and their parents – to manage.

“By the time they are 18, a child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of five faces up to 19,000 injections and 50,000 finger prick blood tests.

“Support in schools for children living with the condition can vary tremendously. Many schools do a fantastic job – but it’s also common to hear less promising stories too. This, along with the postcode lottery of access to diabetes technology, can be incredibly stressful for a parent.”