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Announced: Winner of scholarship to attend World Diabetes Congress

2 December 2013

To mark the 2013 World Diabetes Congress being held in Melbourne Australia, Medtronic Australasia launched a Community Attendance Scholarship. Applicants were asked to respond in 150 words or less to the question: “If you had one minute with Australia’s Health Minister, what would you say to improve the lives of Australian’s living with type 1 diabetes?

Overwhelmed with the number and quality of applications, the winner was determined by a panel of industry representatives. Tracey from Queensland was awarded the scholarship and will join delegates from around the world. This is her story:

 

Tracey 2

Tracey Madigan was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 7. Despite multiple daily injections and a healthy lifestyle,Tracey underwent heart surgery for diabetes‐related complications in her late 30’s and began to lose her eyesight. A devastating blow for a positive and passionate photographer, diabetes became her truest test of courage.

A fit and active kid, Tracey’s diagnosis came with a degree of denial. According to Tracey “we had no family history of diabetes at all. My parents thought my symptoms; drinking excess water, rapid weight change, and fluid loss were as a result of a severe flu. A close friend at school had type 1, and so did her family so we should have accepted the signs but it felt so foreign.”

A few weeks after her symptoms started, Tracey’s health deteriorated rapidly. She was rushed to hospital and slipped into a coma. “I remember waking up in hospital. It was scary. My mum explained what had happened and that I had type 1 diabetes. It was three days before my 8th birthday.”

In the 1970’s, when Tracey was diagnosed, insulin was injected using a glass syringe and a needle top. “Compared to the size of needles today it was huge. I remember screaming the house down. Mum used to bribe me. If I didn’t cry for a month I would be rewarded with a doll or music cassette. Looking back it was very hard for her too.

“With the lifestyle adjustments and multiple daily injections, my diabetes took a toll on the whole family. Our home life became very unstable and there wasn’t much support. I learnt very quickly that it was up to me to maintain my diabetes and that I was the one that was in control of it. By the time I was nine I learnt to give insulin myself, and was delivering four to five injections per day.”

When plastic disposable syringes and home blood glucose monitors were introduced, Tracey considered them a luxury. “Before the monitors, urine testing in test tubes was used. In my teens, I discovered pens which were great as it was easier to disguise my diabetes.”

After high school Tracey pursued a successful sales career and managed several profitable businesses, before making the leap into State Government. Then, in her 30’s Tracey’s health deteriorated, she began to have chest pain and her vision weakened.

Again in a degree of denial, Tracey thought her symptoms were asthma related and she managed it using an asthma puffer. “As the weeks progressed, the asthma attacks I thought I was having felt a bit different. I went to hospital and was admitted for surgery to address cardiovascular disease. During the procedure the surgeon found that my arteries had shrunk in size, likely due to my diabetes. They could not complete the procedure.” Within a week, Tracey underwent quadruple bypass surgery.

“In the weeks after surgery, my blood sugar control was haywire as my body was trying to recover from the procedure and handling new medication. Recovery was brutal. Making things worse, my vision was bad. I was told it would just correct itself. It didn’t. My heart disease was as a result of my diabetes, I was terrified it might take my eyesight too.”

The months that followed were full of laser surgery to try and stabilise the bleeds and stop further new blood vessels from developing but my sight worsened.

“My blood sugar levels determined whether I would have any vision for that day. Most days I only had partial sight and some days I couldn’t see a thing. My work, passion for photography and seeing the world was literally disappearing before my eyes. The crunch for me came my doctor said ‘you will go blind, it’s just a matter of time’.

“Without her vision, and weak from heart surgery, Tracey was unable to continue her work commitments and became bankrupt. As depression set in rapidly, Tracey recalls “Most days I would just sit there and cry. I honestly didn’t believe I had any sort of future, but I decided I would certainly try to fight for one.”

Doctors had explained Tracey’s symptoms were likely a result of her diabetes. According to Diabetes Australia, diabetes can cause complications affecting eyes, feet, kidneys and heart and blood vessels. “I couldn’t control my vision or heart disease but I remembered what I learnt as a kid – I can control my diabetes! With the help of my diabetes team, we adjusted the number of daily injections; changed the insulin but nothing was working.”

Tracey’s team recommended insulin pump therapy. “I had heard about pumps before, but I didn’t know all of the information. The team explained it to me and I thought; what do I have to lose?” Without health insurance and in debt, I was fortunate that my hospital could loan me a pump. I couldn’t believe the difference it made. Within months, my levels were under control. My vision returned and my overall health improved. I began to imagine that future again. I love my pump!”

Her health on the mend, Tracey is determined to share her story both in words and through her affection for photography. Her advice for others; ‘It took me 33 years to gain better control of type 1 diabetes. I experienced some of the darkest moments of my life but with the help of my doctors and my Medtronic insulin pump my health is improving daily. It honestly saved my life. I would encourage anyone living with T1D to stay positive and stay strong, and if you are considering pump therapy – do it!”

To learn more about type 1 diabetes and treatment options visit: www.medtronic-diabetes.com.au.

Note: The patient testimonial relates an account of an individual’s response to the treatment. The individual’s account of her response is genuine, typical and documented. However, the individual’s response does not provide any indication, guide, warranty or guarantee as to the response other persons may have to the treatment. The response other persons have to the treatment could be different. Responses to the treatment can and do vary; not every response is the same.

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