For people living with Type 1 diabetes, every day has its challenges.
This month is Diabetes Action Month, and Mel and Josh Lewis have decided to take on a challenge of their own, in support of their 16-year-old son Toby who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes four years ago.
They have teamed up with Lance Ruehorn, who has been living with Type 1 diabetes for 15 and a-half years, to take part in Diabetes NZ’s ‘‘Fitbit 250K Challenge’’, committing to taking 250,000 steps this month to raise money for, and awareness of, Type 1 and 2 diabetes in New Zealand.
Mrs Lewis said it was ‘‘a little something’’ they could do to raise awareness and support Toby.
‘‘Whatever we can do to help get stuff funded, or better treatments — we’ll do whatever it takes,’’ she said.
‘‘We don’t have to go through all the injections, the readings — all that day-to-day stuff — but this is something we can do.
‘‘The more aware that people become of diabetes, the more money we can raise, the better things that we have for them, and hopefully one day get funding for, then it makes everybody’s life easier.’’
For Mr and Mrs Lewis, taking part in the challenge was also an opportunity to raise awareness of the family wide impact of diabetes — especially the emotional and financial challenges.
‘‘From a parent’s perspective, I don’t think people realise what the families have to go through,’’ Mrs Lewis said.
‘‘Diabetes affects the whole family — not just the person who’s got it — in terms of everyday life and the monetary side of it as well.’’
Toby uses an insulin pump and a Dexcom G6 continuous glucose monitor. The Dexcom allows Toby, and his parents, to monitor his diabetes 24/7 — with glucose readings being sent to his pump and smart phone, and alarms going off if levels are trending high or low — and gives him control and freedoms he would not have using finger-prick testing.
While the insulin pump is funded for Type 1 diabetics who meet a certain criteria, the Dexcom is not, so the Lewis family pays about $4500 a year so Toby can have access to the life-saving technology.
‘‘We don’t want Toby to miss out on having the best technology that’s going to help him be who he is, but that has to come from our family funds.’’
Before they committed to the annual Dexcom subscription, they had a family meeting to discuss the financial commitment — and Toby’s siblings were in full support of it.
‘‘We sat the kids down. . .and said ‘right, this is the case: to make Toby’s life easier, we can spend $5000 a year, get him what he needs, he’s safe, we know that he’s safe, but it might mean that we miss out on maybe going away on holiday once a year’.’’
The Lewis family became close to Mr Ruehorn when Toby started at Waitaki Boys’ High School. Toby was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just before he started secondary school, and Waitaki Boys’ connected him with fellow Type 1 diabetic Mr Ruehorn, who was in year 13 and became Toby’s peer support leader.
They had remained in contact ever since, and Mr Ruehorn had been agreat support for Toby and the family, Mrs Lewis said.
Mr Ruehorn said being active was ‘‘such a key part’’ of managing his Type 1 diabetes, and when he found out that Mr and Mrs Lewis were doing the step challenge, he was keen to be involved.
They have named their team ‘‘Beep beep beeep’’ — ‘‘the sound that alerts our phones every time our son goes low and needs sugar to correct his levels’’ — and had a Givealittle page to raise money, Mrs Lewis said.
The challenge works out to be about 8300 steps a day —which is not a big ask for the already active Lewis family.
So they were trying to go above and beyond, Mrs Lewis said.
‘‘Just doing stuff outside of what we’d normally do every day,’’ she said.
‘‘So even at night time, we’ll go out with the dog for a walk, or go for a run.’’
To support the Lewis family and Mr Ruehorn’s challenge, visit givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/beep-beep-beeep.