Naomh’s plight inspires grandmother’s mission

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IT came as a big shock to Naomh Barrie’s family when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes four years ago.

“With all the things in hindsight, even a lay person could go: ‘I think that’s diabetes’; we didn’t piece it together until she was very, very sick,” says mum Ele Saclier.

Naomh, now 15, suffered the tell-tale signs of type 1 diabetes including weight loss, extreme thirst and tiredness, that eventually led to her hospitalisation.

But with the shock of her illness, came overwhelming community support thanks to Naomh’s grandmother Wendy Saclier.

“It was a great shock to everybody,” Wendy says. “Towards the end of that year I thought: ‘What can we do as a community to support research into type 1 diabetes?’”

Wendy, along with family and neighbours in her street in Curtin, rallied together and using their own skills, cooked, sewed and crafted items to sell in a special event for the neighbourhood held at her home, to raise money for juvenile diabetes awareness and research.

“I live in a community that is fantastic and that’s always supportive to anybody in the area,” she says.

“I talked to my friends in the street about doing a fundraiser to support diabetes, so we did that here in this room, which became a shop.”

Wendy, a quilter and part of Canberra Quilters, also called on the support of local businesses including The Hairdressing Salon in Civic, Warbi-Sarbi Designs, Bead Street, Addicted to Fabric and the Thursday Friendship Group. Well-known quilter Kerry Gavin has also donated quilts to the cause.

And so far they have raised about $14,000 in three years, going towards the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Diabetes ACT and the Canberra Hospital Foundation for caring for children with diabetes.

“She made an amazing recovery thanks to the support of the unit in the Canberra Hospital,” Wendy says.

“We are very fortunate for this here, and to have the kinds of help these young people receive.”

So far so good for Naomh and with the special care from The Canberra Hospital’s pediatrics unit, under the leadership of pediatric endocrinologist Dr Tony Lafferty, she has successfully managed the condition with an insulin pump that’s connected to her stomach.

“Diabetes is a big challenge day-to-day and long term,” Ele says.

“Naomh has shown extraordinary strength and courage from the very beginning.

“That’s not to say she doesn’t have ‘down’ moments – emotionally and socially it can be tough, but to be honest, I don’t think she – or we – would have known the depths of resources that she possesses if she hadn’t had this hand dealt to her.”

It is still unknown what causes type 1 diabetes but, unlike type 2, it’s not linked to lifestyle.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include: being excessively thirsty; passing more urine; feeling tired and lethargic; always feeling hungry; having cuts that heal slowly; itching, skin infections; blurred vision; unexplained weight loss; mood swings; headaches; feeling dizzy; and leg cramps.

It’s currently Jelly Belly month with funds raised by the sale of merchandise and lollies going towards medical research for people with type 1 diabetes. More information at www.jdrf.org.au

PHOTO: Nelson with type 1 diabetes victim Naomh Barrie, centre, with her mum Ele Saclier, left, and grandmother Wendy Saclier… “Naomh has shown extraordinary strength and courage from the very beginning,” says Ele. Photo by Silas Brown

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