Charlie’s story: Learning to live with diabetes

Charlie saying thank you NHS
13 November 2020

“Charlie was cared for as if she was the only patient in the hospital. Nothing was too big an ask.”

We would like to introduce you to nine year old Charlie. In between acting with Stagecoach, playing rugby and coaching gymnastics, this year Charlie has been learning how to live with diabetes with support from our service

Her mum, Susie said: “During the summer holidays we noticed that Charlie wasn’t quite right. She had episodes of being incredibly thirsty, losing weight, having insatiable hunger and getting up to go to the toilet at night – all new things for her. She also lost her emotional resilience. Charlie has always been a very stoical, resilient character and she was becoming upset at the slightest issue, unable to cope with the world.”

Susie did a urine test at home as she suspected diabetes might be the cause, but it was negative for glucose and ketones. Later in the summer holidays though, Charlie’s symptoms returned more dramatically and – following another urine test – Susie spoke to her GP and then brought Charlie to the Emergency Department (ED).

Susie said: “We were quickly triaged and admitted to Ward 3. Charlie was started on treatment and the diagnosis was confirmed. The first night was a bit hairy, she felt awful and we were realising how poorly she actually was. The next morning, diabetes boot camp began! The Diabetes Team came to meet us in considered, planned stages and we rapidly starting getting to grips with what was to be our new life.

“Charlie was at the centre of all of the training, education and care – and it was done at her rate, to equip her to be able to get home safely as soon as possible, but also when she was ready. We really did receive outstanding training.”

The Diabetes Team have continued to deliver their service throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, making sure they’re able to provide fundamental training while following social distancing and PPE guidelines.

Susie said: “It was also very personable and made me as a parent feel like I wasn’t alone, trying to cope with this huge shock. There has clearly been a lot of thought put into how to get this right for a new diabetic and their family.

“From the moment we arrived we received exemplary care, Charlie was cared for as if she was the only patient in the hospital. Nothing was too big an ask, every team that was involved was efficient and thoughtfully listened and orchestrated the next step.”

After a few days at Sheffield Children’s, Charlie and her family were able to go home and start putting what they had learned into practice. Ten weeks on from their stay, Charlie is still adapting in some ways, but she manages lots of aspects of her diabetes herself.

Charlie has between six to eight injections of insulin a day and has to continuously monitor her blood sugar level. At first she did this by testing her blood herself, around 12 times a day, and her mum would test her during the night to check that she was within the target blood sugar range.Charlie and her dexcom

“It is important to keep her sugar levels as normal as possible. She feels pretty unwell if they are too high and really unwell if they are too low – so it is a constant process with narrow margins for error. We have been incredibly fortunate to receive approval for a Dexcom. This is a continuous glucose monitor that has revolutionised Charlie’s management of her diabetes.

“The Diabetes Team is simply amazing. They have been very supportive in empowering Charlie to fully understand her condition and support her as she learns and comes to terms with a medical problem she has for life.”

“Jeny Simpson and Sarah Hawnt have been our lifelines during this and couldn’t have done anything more to help us. Both Charlie and I cannot thank them and the whole team enough for getting us through such a difficult time. They provide outstanding personalised compassionate care.”

The diagnosis hasn’t slowed Charlie down as she joined her mum in running 50 miles in August for one charity, then cutting her hair off for another and also encouraging her school to wear blue for a day in support of Diabetes Awareness Month.

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