Friday, December 1, 2023


A CASTLEWELLAN mum, who was inspired to help other families in a situation similar to her own, has made a very generous donation to the team of nurses she describes as “invaluable”. Denise McGrath recently raised £755, through a sponsored climb of Slieve Donard mountain, and used the money to purchase 31 sets of scales and a further 31 ‘Carbs and Cals’ books, which are essential when it comes to monitoring carbohydrate and calorie counting for people with diabetes. She was inspired to do something to help the team, at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, as a way of acknowledging the work they do in the community, and, even more importantly on a personal level, to thank them for helping save her young son’s life.

Seven-year-old Matthew was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes last December, after several long and anxious months for his family when there was confusion as to what was causing her son’s health to deteriorate. Now, that the condition is diagnosed, mum Denise and dad Colin manage his condition as best as possible through the use of insulin injections, four times a day, as well as carefully managing Matthew’s diet.

However, that does not mean that Matthew has stabilised. He takes ‘hypers’ and ‘hypos’ when his blood sugar either rapidly spikes or drops, and he has to be monitored night and day. Due to Matthew’s condition, Denise decided to give up her job so she could focus on her little boy. Acknowledging that there have been some exceptionally stressful moments, Denise explained that from August of last year it had been suggested Matthew was diabetic. However, each time they went to have tests done, his blood sugars seemed to stabilise.

It wasn’t until one Monday evening last year, and in the lead-up to Christmas, that Denise sensed she needed to check her son’s blood sugars. Immediately, it came up warning her they were high. Little did anyone know, but Matthew was experiencing Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). This is a serious complication of diabetes that can be life-threatening as the patient’s blood is turning to acid as there is too much sugar in their system. Had she not tested her son’s blood as he lay at home that night in bed, he could have slipped into a coma.

Five days later, Matthew was allowed home from hospital. Denise and Colin readily acknowledge they are “so lucky” to have Matthew home, with the local mum explaining how the fundraiser came about after asking the team of nurses what the family could do as a way of expressing their gratitude. Speaking from the family home on Monday evening, Denise said the team who deal with Matthew “are just fantastic” and “are there all the time to answer your call”. “We said we wanted to do something, I suppose as a way of paying them back, and when I suggested a fundraiser they asked could the money be put towards the scales and books. “This means that 31 households now have these scales and books, which are clear guides and make things a little easier.” She added that managing Type 1 diabetes “is a bit like a mixture of science and maths in the kitchen”. So, she decided to climb the highest mountain on 20 August, accompanied by a group of her friends from the Feel Good Fitness gym.

Thanking everyone who donated to her fundraiser and supported her during the event, Denise said it was a privilege to be able to make the presentation to the nurses. “They were so appreciative, and it’s nice to know we are doing our little bit to help others, who may find themselves in a similar situation to our own. “I started this fundraiser to help the nurses after they saved our son’s life, and hopefully with these scales, which are a necessity, and the books, other families’ lives will be made a little bit easier,” she concluded.

Signs and symptoms of Type 1 childhood diabetes include, amongst other things, an increased thirst; frequent urination (sometimes the first sign is bedwetting in a child who has been dry at night); extreme hunger; weight loss despite eating more than usual; fatigue and blurred vision.

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