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Helping kids live an active life with diabetes

Fiona and Candace Walker.

When Candace Walker was nine-years-old she started losing weight, becoming really tired after playing sport and was always hungry and thirsty.

Mum Fiona knew something wasn’t right and took Candace to the Emergency Department at Frankston Hospital.

“They did some tests and found out I had diabetes,” explains Candace, who is now 11-years-old.

“I was put on a drip so they could get fluids into me and I went to the Children’s Ward for two nights.”

It was here she was first introduced to Peninsula Health Diabetes Educator Sue Cole, who helps Candace to manage having type 1 diabetes and still live a normal life.

“It was a bit scary to be told I had diabetes and I knew it was the next chapter of my life,” says Candace.

When someone has diabetes, their body can’t maintain healthy levels of glucose – the main source of energy for our bodies – in their blood. People with diabetes don’t produce enough of the hormone insulin to convert glucose into energy.

The Osborne Primary School year 5 student now has an insulin pump and does finger prick tests five or more times a day to check her own glucose levels. However having diabetes hasn’t radically changed her life – thanks to good planning and support she still attends school and plays netball, surfs, swims and does surf-lifesaving.

She is supported by Sue and other Peninsula Health specialised staff members through the Diabetes Clinic she attends every three months.

“I started on insulin injections four times a day and they taught me how to do the needles without it hurting and how to use the insulin pump that I’m on now – it’s very informative and they make it comfortable for you which is important,” says Candace.

As well as monitoring her weight, height and insulin levels, the multi-disciplinary team of doctors, dietitians, psychologists and diabetes nurse educators, also monitor her lifestyle.

“They’re always asking Candace about what is going on in her life – what sport she plays, what she likes to eat, to help give us some direction about how to look after her diabetes and still allow her to do the things she wants to do which is really good,” says Fiona.

“I feel really lucky to receive that level of support for my family.”

Fiona says it is also important to be able to access care close to home.  

“You already spend a lot of time looking after diabetes so you don’t want to have to travel a long way – the support at Peninsula Health helps us get on with living.”

July 9-15 is National Diabetes Week and Peninsula Health is joining the campaign to raise awareness about the importance of early detection and early treatment for all types of diabetes.

To access support from the Diabetes Education Department at Peninsula Health, call (03) 9784 2660. You can also learn more about diabetes on the Diabetes Australia website.


Jessica Mills