Gerhard Moolman will cycle from Johannesburg to Cape Town to raise awareness for diabetes. He is one of 16 Cyclists who will take part in the Changing Diabetes Cycle Relay, which starts in Johannesburg on 06 November, to arrive in Cape Town on 08 November.
When Moolman’s son, Marco, was an infant, they noticed a change in him that would forever change his life. Normally a big eater, Marco started refusing food, agreeing only to take in liquids. The situation became so bad, they had to take him to a doctor and that was when they learnt that their 22-month-old baby had diabetes.
"It felt like our world was coming to an end," said Moolman. But more than ten years later, their world has not come to an end, and neither has Marco’s.
Marco is just one of the thousands of children living with type 1 diabetes worldwide. According to the International Diabetes Foundation there are about 500 000 children under the age of 15 living with diabetes worldwide. Many of those children have not even been diagnosed.
Once the shock of finding out that their son was diabetic had worn off, Gerhard said they realised how fortunate they were that Marco was diagnosed while he was still young, because they could start "managing the condition early on so the kid does not pick up any unnecessary complication". Moolman said that having Marco diagnosed while he was still young enabled them to change his diet from an early age and raise him into a lifestyle of healthy eating. Now one of his passions is raising awareness about diabetes, so that other children can be saved as well.
Read: Dealing with childhood diabetes
So much so that he joined the annual Novo Nordisk Changing Diabetes Cycle Relay. The relay is celebrating its third year and will take place from 6 to 8 November. Sixteen cyclist, riding in four teams will make their way from Johannesburg to Cape Town in order to raise money for underprivileged diabetic children who cannot afford insulin. During the relay, testing centres will be set up in Johannesburg, Kimberley, Paarl and Cape Town, and members of the public can come not only to be tested but to also be informed on how to take care of either themselves or a loved one living with diabetes.
Moolman said that for him, participating in the relay was not just about raising money for the underprivileged children, but he also wanted to give hope to desperate parents who may feel like the world is coming to an end because their child has been diagnosed with diabetes.
"Children living with diabetes can live normal, full lives," said Moolman. He said that he and his wife decided they would not put Marco, who is now 13, in a "cotton wool environment".
Today he is a star hockey player and also plays rugby.
"He is such an inspiration to all of us," said Moolman.
A real challenge
However he admitted that even though they always look at the positive side, the challenges of raising a child living with diabetes are very real.
Marco has been in a diabetic coma four times. The comas come expectantly, while he is at a rugby match or in school. Moolman said he also has to sleep over at all Marco’s tournaments so that he can test his blood sugar levels at night and help him take his insulin.
Read: Type 1 diabetes rising in small kids
But instead of letting the hard time discourage them, Moolman said it made them even more determined to ensure that their son lived the best life possible.
"Situations like that cause you to think differently. At the end of the day, it’s all about what you make of it," said Moolman.
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Image: Cyclist from Shutterstock