Isabella Macey, 12, with her mum Paula Macey. Picture: Heidi Petith
Isabella Macey, 12, with her mum Paula Macey. Picture: Heidi Petith

The coin-sized sensor and ‘spy belt’ keeping Isabella alive

A COIN-SIZED sensor on her arm and a pump concealed in a "spy belt" on her waist keep 12-year-old Isabella Macey alive.

The Mackay student was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at four years old and now relies on a regulated supply of insulin to stop her falling into a ketoacidotic coma.

Mum Paula Macey said they turned to the Libre sensor system which costs $95 every 10 days as her daughter's fingers were "in a really bad way" from the constant prick tests.

Isabella must account for her blood-glucose reading as well as how many carbohydrates are in her next meal when programming the insulin from the pump which costs about $11,000.

"If you go low (blood-sugar), then you feel like you're going to faint," Isabella said.

"I lose eyesight, you go woozy.

"If you go high, your mouth goes dry and you've got to have a lot of water."

Isabella Macey, 12, with her mum Paula Macey. Picture: Heidi Petith
Isabella Macey, 12, with her mum Paula Macey. Picture: Heidi Petith

Ms Macey said her daughter could safely be without insulin for two hours before danger crept in - a fact that initially made her "kind of grieve" their life pre-diabetes as she worried through the night.

"You kind of go back to having a newborn checking every two hours," she said.

Now with Isabella in her first year of high school, Ms Macey said it was "really hard" to make the transition of giving her daughter more control and responsibility.

"I can't just send Isabella to a sleepover because I've got to make sure she's going to look after herself," Ms Macey said.

"Within Australia, there was an incident where a child went for a sleepover and didn't wake up the next day - dead in bed syndrome - people just don't wake up from type 1 diabetes."

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Isabella said school could be tough with her chronic disease but smiled when she said her insulin needle - which is inserted above her bum - once fell out during sport.

But she said it was annoying when the elastic on her "spy belt" pump case wore out and it was devastating not being able to wear jumpsuits and dresses like her peers.

"When people have parties and stuff where they have lollies, sometimes I don't get invited," Isabella said.

Isabella Macey, 12, with her mum Paula Macey. Picture: Heidi Petith
Isabella Macey, 12, with her mum Paula Macey. Picture: Heidi Petith

Ms Macey said the stigma and lack of awareness about type 1 diabetes was frustrating.

"The public have this misconception that you have that bit of insulin, eat healthy, and you're right.

"We have a medicine that equally keeps our children alive, but can equally kill them if we give too much."

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World Diabetes Day today focuses on promoting the role of nurses in preventing and managing diabetes.

Ms Macey said Jacqueline Holster, the Mackay Base Hospital's children's diabetes educator, had been her family's "rock" over the past eight years.

But she said children would find it easier to fit in and manage day-to-day life if people took the time to understand the condition.

Isabella echoed her mum: "I wish that more teachers knew about how to control it."

About one in 20 Queenslanders are living with diabetes. To learn more about both type 1 and type 2, visit www.diabetesqld.org.au/

Ms Macey also runs the T1D Mackay Facebook page and blogs about their journey via Painting Type 1 Diabetes with Rainbows.



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