Last summer we showcased some fellow PWDs (people with diabetes) over in Europe, who were carrying the Olympic Torch leading up to the Summer Olympics in London.
One of those folks is 16-year-old Hannah Jarrett, who lives in South Wales and has become an up-and-coming diabetes advocate in the five years since she was diagnosed. We’re featuring Hannah today as part of our ongoing Global Diabetes Series, in which we bring you different perspectives on life with D from all over the world.
She’s been blogging for more than a year at the UK’s leading diabetes charity, Diabetes UK, where she shares aspects of her life as a teen with diabetes — and we’re excited to share her story here. Take it away, Hannah!
A Guest Post By Hannah Jarrett
Hello, I’m Hannah and I’m from South Wales, UK. I’m 16, and am one of the roughly 2.9 million people living in the UK with type 1 diabetes. I’ve been living with type 1 diabetes for five years now and have being using an insulin pump for a little more than a year.
When I was diagnosed with type 1, I went to my local doctors’ surgery thinking I had nothing more than an infection. I didn’t really know what type 1 really was as I’d never come across anybody with the condition.
I have to admit I was guilty of the perception that diabetes was a condition of the elderly. In my life at the time there was no knowledge or existence of type 1. As I felt very isolated with my diabetes, I quickly engaged in the work that both JDRF and Diabetes UK Cymru do as a volunteer and ambassador for young people. I have now met hundreds of type 1s.
Throughout my voluntary experiences, I’ve been lucky enough to attend Parliament in London with JDRF; this was in order to get more funding from the government for type 1 diabetes.
There are multiple other charities out there, such as Insulin Dependent Diabetes Trust (IDDT) and smaller support groups throughout the country, but I am not lucky enough to have a local support group from those organizations in this area of South Wales. So my volunteer experiences with JDRF and Diabetes UK have been very important for me in connecting with other people with diabetes.
Actually, the UK is said to rank fifth highest in the world for the rate of children diagnosed with type 1, and each year more than 24 of every 100,000 children younger than 14 are diagnosed.
In Wales, people in employment pay national insurance as part of their salary, a proportion of which pays for the National Health Service, providing free health care. The Welsh government has also pledged to provide free prescriptions throughout the country meaning that all diabetes supplies e.g. insulin and hypodermics (syringes) are available to all.
In general the health care service is available to all and there are specified clinics at all hospitals for both adult and pediatric diabetics. However, in some areas there can be a long waiting list for further services. For diabetes care, you have both a general practitioner at your local doctor’s and also a team at the hospital that can offer specialized treatment for things such as retinopathy and the services of a dietician.
For pump users, it’s a postcode lottery as to whether or not they are available to you. Also, you have to meet a certain criteria before being considered. However, in my area newly diagnosed children under the age of 5 are offered an OmniPod straight away. After a year of pushing for a pump, I am now using Accu-Chek Spirit Combo, but the Medtronic Paradigm Veo was also offered. However, Animas pumps aren’t offered as widely as those of Accu-Chek and Medtronic.
Personally, I became heavily involved with fundraising for both JDRF and Diabetes UK and in two years I had raised close to £3000 by various fundraising activities alone, to name a few: 8-mile walk, 150-foot Zip Wire off Newport Transporter Bridge and multiple-campaign based actions. I also volunteered at a local youth centre twice a week working with younger children — and from this the youth club leader nominated me to become an Olympic torchbearer.
I chose not to get excited, as previously in my life luck was non-existent. I believed that there had to be people out there who had truly inspirational things to put them higher on the list. I didn’t put myself out there to be recognized; I found charity work was one of my coping mechanisms.
So I was overwhelmed to be chosen as one of the first 12 torchbearers to be guaranteed a run. This involved a trip to London to meet the 11 other lucky individuals and Lord Seb Coe in the Tower of London. I came across completely different stories from the other torchbearers… behind every one of those people and their remarkable stories were themes of not only courage and achievement, but the fact that we all have the strength to overcome adversity.
My torch-carrying experience happened May 26, 2012, and it was a phenomenal experience. Never in a million years did I think that I’d be out there running with the Olympic torch in my hand! I feel absolutely privileged to have been chosen out of thousands of nominees. It was a very special opportunity. The day I carried the torch was the one day that there was glorious sunshine in Wales!
What an honor, Hannah. We love that you’re embracing your diabetes publicly, and can’t wait to see where you end up in the world as a diabetes advocate. Thanks for sharing your story!