Paulene Barham was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at just seven years old. Now 50 years later she is using her diagnosis to inspire others to lead a healthy lifestyle.
“I facilitate a number of walking groups in Mackay with a base of about 300 members,” she said.
“It is my hope that people will be more active and take control of their lives. We all can be healthy by eating sensibly and exercising regularly, that is how I have lived my life and how I encourage others to live a life with diabetes.”
As a child living in Brisbane, she recalls the early days of being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
“I was feeling tired, lethargic, thirsty, going to the toilet a lot and then one day I crashed and wasn’t able to be woken up,” said Ms Barham.
It was then that her mother pieced together the signs and rushed her to the doctor where it was diagnosed as type 1 diabetes.
What followed was a six week stay at the Royal Brisbane Hospital and the beginning of a whole new lifestyle for Paulene and her family.
World Diabetes Day falls on 14 November and this year’s theme ‘the family and diabetes’ encourages people to raise awareness of the impact that diabetes has on the family and support unit.
“During my hospital stay my mother had to travel in by bus daily, learn about managing diabetes and inject me twice a day with insulin” said Ms Barham.
“I put so much expectation on my parents as a child to know what they were doing rather than me taking responsibility for myself and trying to be accountable with what I should and shouldn’t eat.
“I was 17 when I really felt like I took diabetes into my own hands. I had been out with friends drinking and suffered a hypo which left me in a very serious diabetic coma. I woke to my parents by my hospital bedside and my doctor giving me a stern talking to.”
Mackay Base Hospital Endocrinologist Dr Yoges Venugopal says education of diabetes is very important and applauds the work Ms Barham does in the community with her walking groups.
“The walking groups Paulene hosts in the community is a wonderful initiative to not only encourage people to be more active, but creates opportunities to get people talking about diabetes” said Dr Venugopal.
“Education on the early signs of all types of diabetes is so important to allow for successful treatment and management planning. If left untreated, the results can be detrimental.”
Diabetes Queensland facilitate local support groups in the Mackay Whitsunday region. They also manage the National Diabetes Service Scheme (NDSS) which offers a national phone line service for people with diabetes and their carers.