Two diabetes campaigners from different ends of the age spectrum got together last week. Retiring Highlands & Islands MSP David Stewart, Scotland’s twice-crowned Diabetes Champion, forged an alliance with nine-year-old Type 1 sufferer Chloe MacAllister, who has been spreading the word on the much-misunderstood form of the disease.
Type 1 diabetes causes the level of glucose in the blood to become too high. It is not linked to diet, age or lifestyle, can't be prevented and has no cure, it requires multiple daily insulin injections, or the use of an insulin pump, just to stay alive as well as continual monitoring of blood glucose levels. There are currently 400,000 people in the UK with type 1 diabetes, more than 29,000 of them children.
The Dingwall Primary pupil, who plays for Dingwall Soccer 7’s football club, inspired a super-hero themed school day of events at the school, sharing the podium with fellow star guest, Type 1 sufferer Commonwealth Games cyclist and ultra-marathon runner Roddy Riddle. She hopes to organise fundraising events and is keen to support other children at the school who have been diagnosed.
Chloe needs to test her blood before she eats anything and uses an insulin pump. She needs to consider the number of carbohydrates she takes in and facts ranging from the temperature to levels of excitement in her day-to-day planning to ensure she stays in balance.
The youngster, who lives at Fraser Road, Dingwall, with mum Melissa, dad Craig, and seven-year-old brother Ryan, said: “I would like to help them understand why we need to do our blood sugars and let them know they can talk to me, because when you're little you don’t understand as well as older children and it gets really confusing.”
Mr Stewart, who has campaigned for fair access to treatment services for sufferers in the Highlands & Islands, co-chairing the Scottish Parliament's Diabetes Cross Party Group and securing debates in the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to do more for people with the condition, was keen to meet Chloe after hearing of her enthusiasm to help other young sufferers.
Presenting her with a bouquet of white and yellow flowers, Mr Stewart told Chloe that she was “a great role model” and “worth your weight in gold”. He said: “What better teacher for other youngsters newly-diagnosed than someone like you who knows what it feels like to have this condition, but who manages through self-determination to show others that it is possible to live life to the full?
"You are an aspiring young leader Chloe, you have shown real strength and you really do have the capacity to improve the lives of others. You’re a great role model, worth your weight in gold.”
Mr Stewart added: “I aim to continue my campaigning work for diabetes research and awareness long after my retirement. I want you to know that you will always have my full support.
Speaking afterwards, mum Melissa said: “Chloe was really excited to meet David. She won’t forget this, we’re very grateful to him. We’ are all just all so proud. Chloe has been through such a lot but she’s still smiling. We always say she’s our hero.” Mrs MacAllister said dealing with diabetes was a challenge but Dingwall Primary School staff are an enormous help.
She said: “We are so fortunate; the school has got four fantastic pupil support assistants who supervise Chloe while she is doing her blood sugars and they know how to assist her when her bloods are low. They attend training sessions and they’re really supportive for us as a family.”
Angela Mitchell, Director of Diabetes Scotland, said: “Dave Stewart has long been a champion for people living with all types of diabetes in Scotland. So it’s great to see he’s continuing this work – and inspiring a new generation! We know how tough it can be growing up with type 1 diabetes, so to hear that Chloe is not only managing this but supporting others is truly inspiring. We agree with mum, Chloe – you’re a hero.”
Photos: David Stewart and Chloe MacAllister