Dónal Burke has lived with type-1 diabetes (T1D) since the age of three. T1D is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the pancreas, an organ which produces insulin and is vital to how the human body processes food and controls the flow of sugar.
Dónal remembers little about the diagnosis, but has always had to keep a tight control on his sugar levels. He recalls: “I had to eat three meals at the same times every day and eat the exact same amount of carbohydrate every day. When I was away on holiday the changing time zones and hotter climates meant I had to test my sugar levels more frequently. Even going out to play football with my friends I had to be very careful,” he explained.
For most of his life, Dónal aimed to keep on top of his diabetes with injections of insulin. While this meant he could keep his sugar levels under control it proved challenging and inflexible. He could not eat when hungry, only to avoid low blood sugar. The regular injections and finger pricking to monitor his blood sugar left him feeling like “a pin cushion”.
Four years ago Dónal started to use an insulin pump, which delivered a more continuous flow of insulin, allowing him greater flexibility and meaning an end to injections. Dónal and his family were very happy with his insulin pump as it allowed him and his family to lead a much less regimented life. With an insulin pump Dónal could sleep in and eat his meals at whatever time he wanted. It also made it much easier to manage his diabetes when he was unwell or travelling.
Dónal remembers that with the pump: “I had the confidence to know that I could go out and play sports and not worry about my blood sugar going low during a football or hurling match. Also I didn’t have to worry about not being able to play a match if it was scheduled to be played near any of my mealtimes as mealtimes were now flexible. Life was good!”
Now a strapping six foot one, Dónal’s teenage growth spurts upset the delicate balance of his blood sugar levels. This led to severe episodes of nocturnal hypoglycaemia (when blood sugar levels dropped dangerously low during the night). Dónal suffered a number of potentially deadly diabetic comas. It got to the point when Dónal’s mum and dad had to wake him every two hours throughout the night to test his blood sugar.
Dónal says: “I ended up constantly worrying about my diabetes. After the second coma I could not stabilise my blood glucose levels at night. I developed a fear of sleeping because I didn’t know if I was going to have another severe hypo. As a result of this I felt tired all the time because at most I was getting a maximum of four hours sleep per night. I felt that diabetes was taking over my health, school and social life.”
How Paradigm Veo Helped Dónal
Dónal’s parents were extremely concerned about the increasing impact diabetes was having on his social life and confidence. They heard about the new Paradigm Veo system. Dónal was the first patient in Ireland to get the new device, which combines an insulin pump with a continuous glucose monitoring system (CGMS) and can suspend the delivery of insulin to help reduce the risk of hypoglycaemic events.
Dónal explains: “Having Paradigm Veo gives me peace of mind knowing that if my glucose levels drop during the night an alarm will sound and if I don’t respond to the alarm, the pump will automatically suspend insulin delivery for two hours. I’m now looking forward to school trips and greater independence, as well as a good night’s sleep!”
The future for Dónal
The greater control and security helped Dónal catch up on lost sleep, leaving him feeling more energetic. The Paradigm Veo also meant foreign holidays are back on the agenda for the whole family. Dónal says: “On our recent trip to Portugal it prevented me going severely low one morning on a trip to the beach, thus avoiding an incident that could have easily ruined our holiday.”
The new device means Dónal can live his life to the full again. As part of his Transition Year he has been abseiling and hill-walking and taken week long trips abroad. It has given him the confidence and the flexibility to go on these trips. It also gives his parents the confidence to give him more freedom.
Dónal also feels he’s back to his old self. He says: “This device has helped me re-establish my life to the stage it was at two years ago, where I can now go out on my own and not worry if I’m going to go low because it will usually tell if I’m dropping, allowing me to treat it more quickly than before.
“Paradigm Veo has made diabetes something that I can treat more discretely. It has made me feel less self-conscious.
“Whilst I know this pump isn’t perfect, it is a major step forward. It has changed my view of diabetes from it being a burden to just being something that I have and need to monitor.
“I hope that you can appreciate how big a difference the Paradigm Veo is making, not only to my life, but to my family’s life as well.”
Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.