I have always been close to my family. My parents have always been a huge support network for me, and have continued their support in everything I do. As a child of the 80's I used to visit my Nana Nora who lived in a little bungalow in a village called Wix, Near Manngintree, Essex. I never remember my Nan having her legs, and as a child I never really had any idea as to why she didn't have legs. I am sure I must have asked my mum and dad why she didn't have any, but cannot remember what they told me. I am sure they would have done what any parent would have, which was protect me and tell me what they thought I needed to know. I always remember the night my Nan died. I was at a Beetle Drive with my brother and mum at Spring Meadow School, Harwich, Essex. My dad came and picked us up, and all I remember is dad saying his mum had died. Even when I am typing this I shed a tear. May 22nd 1987. Years later, I had a conversation with my parents about what happened to my Nan. It was diabetes. Some 28 years later I still think of her and what she may have gone through. To get a better idea of what diabetes is and the effects it can have on people, I decided to reach out to an old school friend, Craig Fenner as I knew that he had gone through some life changing events which had impacted him from his child hood to present day. The following is a frank discussion about what he has gone through.
Me : Craig what kind of diabetes do you have?
Craig : What I had, or what I still have is type 1 diabetes. Its the insulin dependant type. I was diagnosed with it in 1987. I was just 9 years old. My mum had got it, and I understood the injection side of it, but what I didn't understand was the eating side of things. School was difficult. I would go on break and everyone would have chocolate bars and I would have fruit or a little bag of sultanas of something. I really had a sweet tooth as a child and going from having chocolate and sweets, then overnight to not being able to have it was very very difficult. Things were alot different back then as I would have to urinate into a pot, then drop a pill into it and it would give you a different colour. This would show you if your sugar was high, low or in the middle or whatever. You would then have to judge how much insulin you would have to give yourself from that. It was very difficult to keep my sugar levels on a steady level. My levels were up and down, which is where the damage is done. As a child not knowing this I would get my pocket money and go and buy packets of sweets, or swap an apple for a chocolate bar from someone at school. I wanted to be a normal kid, and when you tell a 9 or 10 year old they can't have something, they will do whatever to get it. Thats how it was.....I rebelled it even up until my teens. I thought I was okay as I was playing football and rugby and sports, but kept being told by the doctors that certain things will happen and I dismissed it.
Me : When did things change for you then?
Craig : Things declined at the age of 16-17 years old when my eyes got worse, and then by the time I was 18/19 years old I was of the opinion that it was going to get me anyway, as I had seen my mum go downhill. I lost my Mum in January of 2005. She lost her left leg and her eyesight and she died on dialysis. I thought I needed to live my life to the full, and I did. I drank, smoked and mucked around. It wasn't until I met my previous wife Emma, that she said I had something to live for, I don't want you to go and kill yourself. I then tried to control it. Its alot easier today as the blood testers work out what you eat per day and how many units of insulin you would need. We were happy for about 5 or 6 years and then my kidneys got worse and worse. I lost the feeling in my feet and my legs, and started having difficulty walking and got to a point when the kidneys failed and I went onto dialysis in 2008. My marrige then broke down in 2009.
Craig then showed me his scars from dialysis, which did shock me.
Craig : continued....I thought I was going to die. I never thought I was going to get a transplant. Two months later I received THE phone call. I got rejected the first time as my pancreas wasn't right. Three weeks later though I had the operation. Its been okay since then. I am forever grateful for those who are organ donors. I've also been unfortunate to have other events in my life that have not helped my road to recovery. I injured my foot and was in plaster for 18 months, and I couldn't go anywhere or do anything! Depression then set in, and I ended up loosing my home. I then had to start counselling. This is when I met Charlie, and she has been a total inspiration for me. I had nothing to get up for, and even attempted to take my own life in March of 2010 and when I injured my foot, and ended up in Peter Bruff Ward in Clacton for 5-6 weeks. It has been a long road back, but things have turned around. I am now getting married in a couple of years, and things are good. I have had a lot of support from family and friends when I was young, but I just didn't care. I was wrapped in cotton wool, and it made me rebel even more! I speak to some of my old friends and they say they feel guilty....why I ask them? Because they knew and they didn't do anything to help. I have always had a good network of people. I mean I hadn't seen some of my school friends for several years, but when I needed that support they were there. When I was at my lowest time in my flat on my own, they would come and see me. Its funny where your network comes from.
Craig, as a constant reminder had tattoos on both of his arms. Latin Translation: To Dare is to Do.
and Life makes us stronger.
After our conversation Craig went onto explain that he wants to and has always wanted to raise awareness of what happened to him. In 2009 Craig (who is scared of heights!) jumped out of a plane for Charity, hoping to help those who needed it. The link below is an article published in the Colchester gazette, in Essex.
Craigs story really took me back to my childhood and thinking about my Nan and what she may have gone through with diabetes. Things have changed over the years with advances in technology and medicine, but one thing that stood out for me, is that the support network he has, is why he is still here.
The following information has been taken from diabetes UK, and explains exactly what type 1 diabetes is, and how it can impact someone.
Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 10 per cent of all adults with diabetes and is treated by daily insulin injections, a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age but usually appears before the age of 40, and especially in childhood. It is the most common type of diabetes found in childhood.
Leaving Type 1 diabetes untreated can lead to serious health problems, including diabetic ketoacidosis, which can result in a potentially fatal coma.
In Type 1 diabetes the signs and symptoms are usually very obvious and develop very quickly, typically over a few weeks. The symptoms are quickly relieved once the diabetes is treated and under control.
For more information head over to http://www.diabetes.org.uk/
For more information about being on the Organ Donor Register, follow the link below