"I wish I could wake up tomorrow and be able to eat anything I like and, for one day, not have to inject myself."
This is Amy’s wish - she was diagnosed with diabetes (or "sugar sickness") at the age of three. Four times a day this eight-year-old girl has to inject herself with insulin, and throughout the day she has to be aware of when and what she eats.
The prevalence of diabetes mellitus – also known in South Africa as the "silent killer" - is increasing all over the world and is now recognised as a serious disease. It has increased drastically, among children as well as adults during the past few years, due to lifestyle changes and modern dietary habits.
Diabetes mellitus is a serious, chronic, progressive disease with widespread effects on the body. The inability to produce insulin impedes body functions such as thought, growth and movement. In short, one cannot exist without insulin.
Fortunately, it is possible to inject insulin and control the disease under strict supervision. However, the treatment is severe, radical and lasts a lifetime. It is therefore not surprising that the disease has a severe psychological impact on children and their families. In particular, it can lead to a negative self-image, breakdown in the family system, rejection by the school system and lack of job opportunities.
But, are you aware that a person with diabetes can lead a relatively "normal" life, receive a good education and even grow old? Alas, the South African situation presents a gloomy picture. Children with diabetes die every day because the symptoms are recognised too late or not at all. Those who do survive are subjected to complications such as damaged kidneys, leg amputations and blindness.
Kids and Care South Africa
Kids and Care South Africa is a non-profit organisation that focuses on children with diabetes mellitus and the environment in which they live. It was founded in 2004 by leading diabetes experts Dr Jacobus van Dyk (paediatrician linked to the Little Company of Mary Hospital, Femina Clinic and Pretoria University Clinic) and Dr Cobi de Jong (psychologist specialised in diabetic children).
Kids and Care’s main objective is to deploy a nationwide educational/communication project, through the distribution of high-quality, age-related learning aid books to children, their families and teachers. Diabetes South Africa (the patients' association) disseminates the educational material throughout the country, thus allowing all South African children with diabetes to have their "own" diabetes booklet. Should you wish to obtain more information regarding Kids and Care South Africa, kindly visit the website on www.kidsandcare.co.za - (Health24, updated February 2010)