Update on Joseph

When I started writing this blog in January 2019 one of the aims was to raise awareness of Type 1 diabetes, and also to raise funds for research into an autoimmune condition that is often (very often) misunderstood. In 2019, with your help, I raised more than £2000 for JDRF, a charity based in the UK* that funds research into finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes, and improving the lives of those living with it.

I’m afraid to say that I have been somewhat neglectful of this particular aspect of the blog over the last few months. I started this post four months ago, and it remained in draft form until this week. Cake and running took over. Sadly I have been kicked into action by some bad news.

Last year friends in Kenya brought a young man to our attention. This young man, Joseph, has Type 1 diabetes. His life is very different to a young person’s life here in the UK. He goes to school, he plays football with his friends, so far much the same. But – he does not have access to health care in the way that we in the UK have access to our wonderful National Health Service. At 14 years old he has to pay for his medication, his test strips, his insulin. It is not affordable. He relies on donations to help. You can read more about Joseph by clicking here.

Everyone is all too aware of the terrible global pandemic of COVID-19. It has been devastating for so many. The direct and indirect effects of the pandemic have had far reaching and long lasting consequences for physical and mental health; for economic stability on an individual level as well as national and international levels; for climate change; for political stability. Joseph’s story started long before COVID-19, but his situation right now is partly a result of the pandemic, albeit indirectly.

Because of the pandemic Joseph has not been able to attend school, like millions of children across the globe. This means Joseph has not only missed out on education, but also on the health care and food he receives at school. His school nurse plays a very active role in monitoring Joseph’s blood sugars, and everyone at the school makes sure that he has a good diet suitable for his needs. But what happens when you are not at school? What happens if you live in a poor household, with a family not educated about Type 1 diabetes? What happens when you are 14 and left to your own devices in relation to your health? You end up sick.

A couple of weeks ago Joseph was very sick. (All photos are used with permission.)

Joseph got malaria. This made him ill, probably more ill than usual because his blood glucose was very high. When people with Type 1 get ill it’s often even harder to regulate blood glucose than normal. The delicate balance of hormones is easily upset – even on the best days, when everything seems to be ok, blood glucose levels can go up or down dramatically for no apparent reason. It is one thing if this happens only rarely, but quite another if it is a daily occurrence. High levels of blood glucose (hyperglycaemia) cause long term damage to nerves, arteries, kidneys, eyes. Hyperglycaemia impairs the immune system. It makes you feel sluggish and unwell. Add that to a disease like malaria … well, it’s not good.

Joseph’s kidneys began to fail. Your kidneys are responsible for removing waste products from your body. If they aren’t working properly then those waste products build up in the body and make you feel even worse.

In the first hospital Joseph went to conditions were pretty basic.

Joseph is having dialysis in hospital right now. Dialysis is a procedure where the blood is ‘cleaned’ by a machine linked to your body. Usually it is done every other day, and in hospital. It is not pleasant but it saves lives.

Joseph has had several sessions of dialysis, but needs more as he recovers, and doctors try and stabilise his glucose levels.

Joseph has been in hospital for a couple of weeks now, and is slowly getting better. First he was in a local hospital before being moved to a bigger hospital that could look after him better. We are all hoping he will be out of hospital soon.

My friends Tim and Carol are part of a charity that runs the school Joseph attends. Vipingo Village Fund support the Future Hope Montessori School, as well as supporting local projects that benefit all the community. Donations go directly to the charity, and are used directly with and for the local people in Vipingo.

In Kenya there is a national health insurance system – the monthly cost of the insurance averages a day’s pay for local residents. That might not sound like a lot – but when one person’s wages may be supporting a large extended family people often don’t sign up for it. Joseph was not signed up for it at the time of his illness (he soon will be hopefully!). What this means is that the charity is paying all the costs of Joseph’s healthcare. Each session of dialysis costs £55, and the estimated cost of treatment is between £1000-£1500. So far the charity have raised £600 – mainly through appeals on their Facebook page.

I have not been focussing on charity fund raising this year because I don’t want to be a pain! But please, if you possibly can, consider donating what you can afford to help with Joseph’s care. Every penny will go directly to helping pay his medical costs, if you note ‘Joseph’ in the message section of the donation page. If the charity raise more than they need for hospital costs right now the money will be saved in a separate account for future costs associated with Joseph’s medical care. You can be sure that there will be plenty of future costs, even with insurance. You can donate on the website HERE!!!

Tomorrow I will be running my first actual event of the year since January – the Phoenix Party Train. Because of COVID-19 there are security measures in place which mean that instead of everybody running together at 9.30am the much smaller field of 45 runners are starting in groups of 6 at 6.45am!! Luckily for me I am in a slightly later group – at 7.45! It will still mean a very early start. The event is a 6 hour timed run, which means that you can do as many laps (up and down the towpath from Walton on Thames) as you can or want in 6 hours. I am aiming for a minimum of 10 miles, and hoping that I may be able to do 13.1!

To encourage me in this effort please donate towards Joseph’s care – it will make me very happy to know that at least one disadvantaged young person with Type 1 diabetes is getting the care they need to live a healthy and happy life. I am sure it will also give Joseph, his family and everyone at Vipingo Village a huge lift to know that people are wishing him well, and contributing to his welfare. You can donate HERE!! Don’t forget to mention Joseph’s name when you make your donation, and the money will be diverted directly to his care. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

*There is also a JDRF in the USA.

Why am I running 12 half marathons in a year?

I feel that I’ve neglected to write much about the real reason WHY I am running a half marathon every month in 2019. There are lots of reasons, but one main one. I am raising money for a cause dear to my heart. I am running to raise money to help researchers FIND A CURE FOR TYPE ONE DIABETES!! I don’t have Type 1 myself, but people close to me do/did.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition – it’s caused by the body essentially attacking its own cells, destroying the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. This leads to a lifelong dependency on injected insulin. It’s what is nowadays termed a long term condition – what that means is that you have it forever. Right now there’s no cure.

One from earlier this year! I loved this run down in Surrey.

When I started writing this blog one of the aims was to raise awareness of what Type One Diabetes is all about. In this I feel I have somewhat failed. I have been sidetracked by cake. And running. Partly this is because I find them easy to write about. Partly it is because I sometimes feel a bit helpless writing about a condition that I don’t have.

Sometimes I actually stop running, and walk instead! In June my friend Michelle and I walked half of the South Downs Way to Eastbourne.

In this post I’m going to point you to just a couple of the great blogs and amazing people out in the Type 1 world. They can enlighten you much better than I can to what it means to have a condition where you are constantly thinking about what you eat, what your blood glucose level is, and what you are going to do in terms of injecting insulin to keep yourself going.

Not only do these amazing people have Type 1, they have demanding jobs AND they manage to write blogs, do podcasts, walk several thousand miles, raising awareness and money along the way.

Recently I listened to a super podcast by the inimitable Miss Jen Grieves, talking to a fellow Type Oner Peter Davies who has had Type 1 since 1958. He spoke about the ‘old days’ of testing sugar in urine using a mini chemistry kit, that only told you approximately what your blood glucose was 4 hours ago. He also talked about the injecting apparatus – re-using and re-sharpening hypodermic needles! Can you believe it? Well I can. Although I don’t remember my dad actually sharpening his needles I certainly remember him re-using them, and storing them in surgical spirits.

My two best sons! They like running, and supporting JDRF too.

Jen Grieves has a wonderful blog, and now several brilliant podcasts. If you are not sure about what living with Type 1 is like, and you don’t know anyone to ask, have a listen to her podcasts – I promise you will learn a lot. I am certainly learning a lot!

Another person I found on social media (Instagram) is Eliza Bartlett. Eliza is an Australian cricketer. She walked over 4,000 miles from southern Italy to Aberdeen in Scotland earlier this year to raise money for JDRF Australia. She did this on her own for virtually the whole way. She has Type 1, and I simply cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to manage her diet and insulin while walking all that way through different countries. She also managed to plan her route to take in several cricket matches, and even played some golf! It was an incredible, inspiring achievement that makes running a mere half marathon every month seem like peanuts! This article in The Cricketer is a great report of her journey.

If you are on Instagram search the hashtag #typeoneawareness. There are lots of people posting about their lives with Type One. If you want to understand just a little about what it’s like take a look.

Another great place to go is the JDRF website – chock full of information in easily understandable form. November is Diabetes Awareness Month. You may think you know about diabetes – but do you really know about Type One diabetes? Check out the quiz!

On Sunday I am running half marathon number 11, and I am really looking forward to it. I won’t have to worry about my blood glucose at the beginning of the run. I won’t have to worry about it half way through. I won’t have to worry about it at the end. Why?Because my pancreas will just deal with converting glucose and glycogen into energy as my muscles need it. I’m lucky. Let’s help JDRF fund the research that will find a cure for Type One.

Please consider donating to my fund raising page here. And a BIG thank you to those friends and family who already have!

Final selfie – also on a walk in Cornwall. I love this coast path, and walked and ran some of it earlier this year.