Imagine multiple daily needles, blood tests and constantly counting carbohydrates before every meal or snack. This is the regime for people with type 1 diabetes (also called Juvenile Diabetes). Usually diagnosed in children or adolescents, the cause of T1 Diabetes is still not widely understood.
At this point in time there is no vaccine for those who may develop diabetes, and there is no cure.
Mark Morley is a diplomat with the Australian Trade Commission based in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. His two year old daughter, Jemima, was diagnosed with T1 Diabetes in late 2014 and relies on regular injections of insulin to survive. The illness is life-changing. New diet regimes to lessen carbohydrates, changes to exercise and regular blood sugar testing (up to 12 times a day) is required to ensure that Jemima stays within a healthy blood sugar bandwidth.
For those in the developed world, T1 Diabetes is a shock, but not a killer. If kept in check, T1 Diabetics can live healthy long lives. In the developing world, the reality is different. Those diagnosed as children in rural parts of Asia and Africa, (think Mozambique or Afghanistan) may die before adolescence, as the inability to purchase safe and effective insulin, expensive blood monitoring products, coupled with a poor diet and a lack of education means that many children do not have the opportunity to live a full life.
Whilst many people are familiar with Type 2 diabetes which is caused by obesity and lack of exercise, T1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means people start producing antibodies which destroy the pancreas, resulting in a lack of insulin. In the Middle East, diabetes is relatively common – and growing. According to the UAE Health Ministry, the number of children in the UAE with type 1 diabetes has doubled since 2000. The Diabetes 2012 Atlas Update puts the UAE 11th globally for the disease and fifth regionally, and nearly 20 per cent of the population has T1 or T2 diabetes.
The diagnosis has had an effect on more than just Mark’s family. It has brought Australians and a Kiwi together, two traditional sporting foes, to climb Mt Kilimanjaro to raise money for a cure.
Mt Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5,895 metres above sea level. With absolutely no mountaineering experience (aside from climbing sand dunes in Saudi) Mark, and his mates Tom Paterson the CEO of a Melbourne-based meat company, and John Laxon, a New Zealand diplomat in Saudi Arabia, will attempt to conquer the peak in August this year.
Their climb will go toward the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation(http://jdrf.org/), the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes research. JDRF’s goal is to progressively remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until they achieve a world without T1D. As the largest charitable supporter of T1D research, JDRF is currently sponsoring more than $450 million in scientific research in 17 countries.
The group have partnered with the JDRF and with Everyday Heroes to raise money for a diabetes cure, and are seeking donations to take on the mountain: https://give.everydayhero.com/au/team-kilimanjaro-laxon-morley-paterson