World Diabetes Day: “It’s A Very Misunderstood Condition”
Today celebrates World Diabetes Day for global awareness focusing on diabetes mellitus. The campaign draws attention to issues of paramount importance to the diabetes world and keeps diabetes firmly in the public and political spotlight.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. Not being able to produce insulin or use it effectively leads to raised glucose levels in the blood (known as hyperglycaemia). Over the long-term high glucose levels are associated with damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues.
19 year old, Katie McLean, goalkeeper for Watford FC Ladies Under-23s, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2004 but this does not stand in the way of her footballing dreams. McLean has not let the condition put her off the game, but has learnt how to adapt and play safely with her condition, even if she has been told not to.
“I have had people question my physical ability based on the fact I have diabetes,” Katie told watfordfc.com. “My response has always been - ‘well I guess I’ll have to prove you wrong!’
“I was diagnosed with Diabetes in 2004 (aged three) after I became unwell with the most common symptoms of diabetes, needing to urinate often, constant thirst and very lethargic. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas cannot produce insulin. Daily, this means regular blood tests and injections in order to keep my blood glucose levels in range. It is a very misunderstood condition and I hope that this will open up more conversation about how serious it can be.”
Mclean is determined not to let this affect her football, but of course she may have a slightly different routine to other players. Katie has to think a lot further ahead around her training and game schedule.
“My preparation all starts the night before,” she said. “Whenever I have training or a game I always decrease 0.5 units off my standard evening insulin and this is the same for the morning dose too. In the morning I’m not always hungry so I really have to plan my food in the day to make sure I’m eating sufficient carbohydrates that will give me the energy at football. I have to consider how much I’m eating and what the potential insulin dose will be. Throughout the day I blood test a little more often making sure I remain level as we get closer to the game or training. This isn’t always achievable, diabetes is a daily challenge and my blood glucose levels will rise during training naturally.
“The main difficulty is, extremely high glucose levels which is very dangerous to the body, meaning if I wasn’t to inject any insulin I could end up in hospital, or worse. As I’ve got older I have learnt to blood test regularly during exercise, ensuring my glucose levels are stable. It has been a challenge as I’ve been put on many different types of insulin, but things are finally under better control.”
McLean has partnered up with The Diabetes Football Community to inspire, motivate and promote other women and girls with Type 1 to get involved in sport and football. The project is aiming to encourage women and girls with diabetes to get involved whether they have experience in football or just want a new challenge. In the new year, the team plan to be getting together a GB Diabetic Women’s Futsal Team.
Katie McLean is a fine example of how nothing can get in the way of your dreams, even with a serious condition like this.
“I am thrilled to be playing with Watford Under-23s this season but there’s still hope I will push even higher,” she said. “I am so proud of where I have come already, but I want to keep going.”
McLean wants to inspire people to play football or be involved in sport if you have this condition, and not let people tell you that you can't.
“My advice would be to make sure you do plenty of blood tests throughout football training and when possible for games. I would also suggest telling your management and team to ensure they have understanding so they can help you, don't be ashamed. This for me is vital as low blood sugars are common for some in exercise and I also suffer from these. Low blood sugars (hypoglycaemia) are serious, can happen quickly and can result in seizures. Most importantly it will not affect your physical ability or potential in succeeding so do not let anyone tell you differently!”
You can find more information about this on the Diabetes UK website.