Blind young woman with kidney failure urges diabetic youngsters to take their health seriously

by Barbara Hewitt on May 21, 2014

A young woman with type 1 diabetes has spoken out in the hope of persuading other youngsters to be aware of the serious health consequences if you ignore medical advice.

Colette Irving, 24, from Scotland, is blind and needs a kidney transplant, both a result of her refusal to treat her type 1 diabetes with care during her teenage years.


Irving wants to make other youngsters aware of the serious health consequences of diabetes mismanagement

She wants other young people to know that blindness and kidney failure are real consequences if your type 1 diabetes is not properly managed and you ignore nutritional advice.

She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of eight and found it increasingly difficult when she was a teenager to stick to a healthy regime. Irving admitted that she was too naïve to understand the consequences and how devastating the complications of diabetes can be.

She even stopped injecting insulin at one point as a protest against her mum and would often eat the same foods as her friends, including lots of carbohydrates and junk meals. She would go out drinking with her friends at weekends.

The consequences have had a serious effect on her health. She is now registered blind due to retinopathy and has been fitted with a gastric pacemaker as she has developed a condition called gastroparesis, which means that the nerves that control her stomach are too damaged to properly function.

‘I thought I was invincible like all young people do. I was naive and never fully understood the seriousness of the condition. When I was younger, I would deliberately avoid taking my insulin if I got grounded or my mum gave me a row, purely because I knew she would get worked up and it would hurt her feelings. I never actually considered what I was doing to my own body,’ she explained.

She has also developed acute kidney failure and will rely on a kidney transplant to extend her life for up to another 10 years. She is fatalistic about the option of a kidney transplant. ‘It would be a waste as the doctors have already told me my diabetes is going to kill me, plain and simple,’ she told the Scottish Daily Record.

She used to have a car and a job but now she needs a white stick to get around because of her blindness. ‘If I could go back and do it all again, I really would. If I had known I was going to end up blind at the age of 24, I would have looked after myself a lot better. The best thing I can do now is to warn other diabetic sufferers not to do what I did.

Hopefully, if others see what’s happened to me, it will seriously make them think about their own lifestyles,’ she added.

She also pointed out that there is not enough information out there for young children to make them realise the seriousness of the condition.

The medical team at Forth Valley Royal Hospital who have been treating the young woman for the last 12 years said that her health problems stem from her chaotic glycaemic control as a teenager.

‘Diabetes is a self-managed condition. Friends, family and healthcare professionals can all provide advice and support, but it is the person themselves who has to decide how to manage the condition and who makes the choices about their treatment options,’ said consultant Nicholas Barwell.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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