For most kids, getting an injection is a rarity. For the three children of the Ryan family – Ben, Emily, and Harry – being injected five times a day was a critical part of managing their Type 1 diabetes. Family life was controlled by the gruelling injection routine. “I had to visit them throughout the day at school, follow them to birthday parties, and wake them during the night to administer their injections,” remembers their mum, Jane, “on top of that, they were at constant risk of developing complications such as blindness, coronary heart disease and kidney failure.”
There was a solution – implanting a tiny insulin pump under each child’s skin – but the diabetes team at Cork University Hospital had to wait until the three children were as healthy as possible before getting to work. The family’s specialist diabetes nurse, Norma O’Toole, dieticians Jennifer Wilkinson and Shirley Beattie, and the administration team made up of Annemarie Byrne and Susan Crinion made the process as smooth as possible.
“The multidisciplinary team approach was the key to the success of our work with Emily, Harry, and Ben, and for all children we treat in CUH,” says Dr Stephen O’Riordan. “The insulin pump is a small computerized unit, about the size of a mobile phone, that is fitted under the skin and continually infuses insulin into the blood,” he explains.
To start the process each child had their daily injections increased so they could achieve more eating independence. At the same time, their parents underwent CHOICE training to help manage the children’s diet and learn accurate carbohydrate counting. When Norma rang to say the pumps were ready, they began a trial period using the pump for a week with salt water before coming to Pump School to learn how to use the device.
By week two Ben, Harry, and Emily were all established on their own (individually coloured!) insulin pumps.
“We are now controlling the diabetes rather than the diabetes controlling our children’s lives,” said mum, Jane.
Working together with the diabetes team at Cork University Hospital, they have dramatically altered for the better their daily routine and lifestyle, and the three kids can now look forward to living independently, while staying healthy and well.