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A diabetes caretaker community

Pamela Durant is the mother of a child with Type 1 diabetes. The diagnosis led her to start a diabetes caretaker community – Diapoint. We ask Pamela about her journey.

Could you tell us your son’s diagnosis story?

My son was diagnosed when he was 20 months old. It was a hot August in Dubai (like all Augusts are!) and he was drinking an excessive amount of water and going backwards in toilet training. He would wake up soaked and never had any issues before. I first thought the water consumption was just due to the heat, but then one day I measured how much water he was drinking and it was 1.5 litres by the afternoon, not including milk or anything else. He was due for a check-up the following week, but after doing an internet search and learning that drinking a lot and bed wetting were potential signs of Type 1 Diabetes, I made an appointment for the next day.

His pediatrician was quite good, but was certain my son could not have diabetes. We had no family history and he was happy, healthy and growing on track, so he didn’t think it was possible. I still questioned it and somehow encouraged him to check to make sure because something was not right. So he reluctantly took a deep breath and said, “Ok, if it will give you peace of mind.” His blood sugar read over 400mg/dL (22.2mmol/l). He still didn’t believe it and asked his nurse to bring a second glucose meter to confirm. It read the same thing. He then checked his urine, which had some ketones, so off to the hospital we went, and our Type 1 journey began.

How did you decide to get involved in diabetes for work?

I started a blog about my experience as a caretaker in 2016. One evening I sat down to start a new blog about photography, but instead all these thoughts about diabetes just poured out. It felt very therapeutic. 

My son’s pediatric endocrinologist invited me to a few clinical conferences to present about my experience and challenges as a caretaker. As I sat through those conferences listening to the research, outcomes and discussions among the physicians, I gained a deeper understanding of how challenging Type 1 diabetes is, and how much people were struggling. 

Over time, the more parents I met who had children with Type 1 diabetes, the more I realized I wanted, and needed, to do something. My husband and I both worked in healthcare and I’m not sure that made it any easier. But we did have the advantage of knowing who to ask to direct us to find a quality medical team that understood Type 1 diabetes. I always wondered about the people who did not have easy access to medical professionals, or even medical care. 

For mothers with newly diagnosed children, I just wanted to do a brain dump of everything I learned on the way to make it easier and less overwhelming, and flatten the learning curve we all go through at diagnosis. 

I did not want anyone to experience those feelings of overwhelm and isolation I had when my son was diagnosed. And I longed for a community to support me, so I started taking small steps to create that.

Pamela Durant

I had no support, no pediatric endocrinologist or medical team at the time available that understood Type 1 diabetes. There was also no community support, and I wanted to change that. I couldn’t solve every access issue, but I decided I could at least share my experience in case it helped someone else.

Could you tell us about Diapoint?

Diapoint is the place for people touched by diabetes. We provide diabetes education, coaching services, a diabetes network, advocacy and products through our online shop to support people living with diabetes. 

We also have many free resources including a Travel With Diabetes guide, The Essentials For Managing Your Child’s Type 1 Diabetes At School, and free recipe books. And we have a YouTube Channel, @DiapointTV, with informative videos and discussions in both English and also Arabic. There is a lot of information out there in English, but not enough in Arabic and other languages, so we are working to grow more support and resources in this area.

What do you wish you’d known when your son was diagnosed?

Ironically, I’m writing a new free e-book about this very subject that will be available very soon!

I wish I knew that diabetes can be manageable. When someone has access to the basics, it can become a part of everyday life. By no means is it unicorns and rainbows, it brings some challenges, but it is manageable.

Pamela Durant

No one took me aside to say: “Take it one day at a time”. Or: “Here are some amazing role models thriving with diabetes.” For example, something as simple as seeing a world-class athlete with diabetes gives a parent with a newly diagnosed child so much optimism. It doesn’t even have to be an athlete, just seeing people who have lived successfully with diabetes for years is inspirational. But I think knowing that everything is still possible with diabetes in those early days would have been helpful.

What advice would you give to other caretakers who are struggling?

Try to take it one day at a time. It is overwhelming in the beginning and it takes time to make sense of it all. There is so much pressure to get it all perfect right away and that’s near impossible to do because diabetes, and pretty much anything else, is not perfect. It demands we are diligent, but we’ll never reach perfection.

I would also highlight the importance of taking care of yourself. Even though I have always lived a fairly healthy lifestyle, working as my son’s pancreas 24/7 took its toll.

Pamela Durant

I got incredibly sick after my son’s diagnosis and had recurrent pneumonia for three years in a row. It happened because I never slept well because I was up all night worrying. After the third time, I decided to really focus more on my health. I started eating more plant-based, made time for regular exercise again, and tried to improve my sleep. I’m a certified health and lifestyle medicine coach, but I had to really look at my life from that perspective because I was not always following my own advice.

Do you have any tips on how to turn an interest in diabetes into a career?

For any career, it is important to love the work. You can take your passion for anything and make it a career if you want to. I didn’t start my journey this way – I was already working in healthcare for 15 years before my son’s diagnosis. I was able to see some of our challenges from that perspective, so I brought those two worlds together. And, I knew that by starting a company, I could grow things more quickly and ultimately help more people who need support.

But you don’t have to have a business or healthcare background to support people with diabetes. You may be more interested in advocacy, or taking the steps to be a diabetes educator, or something else.

Most importantly, start with what you know, and what it is that you want to change. But just start. As you take one step at a time toward that, you will see the bigger picture more clearly.

Pamela Durant

What makes your life sweet?

There are many things that make my life sweet. My son certainly does – and not always the parts about diabetes. In the context of diabetes, I am happy to say I can now look at this condition with a lot of gratitude. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but we are so blessed in all the meaningful connections and experiences this has brought us. I am so grateful that I get to wake up every day and support people on this journey.

What to read next?

10 ways to offer diabetes support: Being a supportive partner can be both a gratifying and a challenging role – especially when living with a person with diabetes. Diabetes affects the whole family, not just the one taking medicine.

Caregiver support for people with diabetes: Being a supportive caregiver, family member or friend to a person with diabetes can be both a gratifying and a challenging role. Diabetes affects the whole family, not just the one taking medicine.

How to help during diabetes burnout: Diabetes burnout is unavoidable, when you’re living with diabetes. But how can you help during diabetes burnout? What can you offer someone you love who is struggling?

Photos by Naassom Azevedo and Alexis Brown on Unsplash

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.