We should salute everyone working for a cure for type 1 diabetes

Peter Jones, JDRF
Peter Jones, JDRF
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In 2016, one man hauled a 19-stone anvil to the highest peak on the Isle on Arran to raise funds to support type 1 diabetes research.

Davy Ballantyne decided to undertake the challenge after his daughter Roisin was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes to prove to her that she was not alone with her struggle.

It took him 24 days to complete the ascent to the top of Goatfell (874m above sea level) with the anvil, returning each day to pick up where he left off. Adding to the challenge, Davy wore a traditional kilt as he scaled the mountain. For his efforts, he was nominated for a JustGiving Award for endurance.

A nine year old, Eilidh Kane, made the walk of her life to help those who, like her and her four-year sister, Grace, have type 1 diabetes.

The 5km One Walk for JDRF (the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) took place in September and was the furthest Eilidh has ever attempted, because as well as living with the constant finger pricks and carb counting that goes with managing her type 1 diabetes, Eilidh has cerebral palsy, which leaves the right side of her body weak.

And an East Kilbride mum, who gave up work to look after her three-year-old daughter with type 1 diabetes, is now raising money to help find the cure that will change her little girl’s life. Pauline Ferrar is making handcrafted wooden gifts, including bespoke key rings, which she is selling to raise funds for JDRF.

These are just some of the inspirational stories of this year and, at JDRF, we are constantly humbled by the effort and sacrifice that goes into all kinds of fundraising undertaken by all our supporters.

People have held barn dances, golf tournaments, an It’s a Knockout contest and climbed mountains – some have even set up a tea shop on the slopes of Bennachie to sell cupcakes to raise money. And, of course, behind each fundraiser there is a team of people organising prizes, selling raffle tickets and spreading the word.

JDRF exists to cure, treat and prevent type 1 diabetes and its complications and funds research across Scotland and the rest of the world. The cause of the condition is not yet fully understood. It is an autoimmune condition (like MS and Crohn’s Disease) and cannot be prevented. It can also be life altering. A child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of five faces up to 19,000 injections and 50,000 finger prick blood tests by the time they are 18. So, for many parents of children with type 1, as well as those living with the condition, the prospect of a cure is very powerful.

In Scotland, those with type 1 also help each other in another, unique way. Thanks to the Scottish Care Information – Diabetes Collaboration (SCI-DC) initiative, Scotland has a register of people with type 1 which is the envy of those working in diabetes care and research south of the Border.

Scotland also has the Diabetes Research Network Type 1 Diabetes Bioresource, which holds blood samples of more than 5,500 people, with information on the patient’s diabetes history for future research.

By committing to these databases, those in Scotland with type 1 are positively engaging with the research process. It is a strength that is already reflected in JDRF’s decisions to fund Scottish research and we have currently committed nearly £4 million to studies that look at the complications associated with type 1 diabetes, glucose deficiencies and cell replacement therapies.

What’s more, research here in Scotland directly feeds into a global JDRF resource that collates all data to accelerate paths to better interventions, treatments and, ultimately, a cure.

It’s what Katie Shaw, aged 12 and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was seven, and Chelsey Millar, aged 11, who learned she had type 1 at four, are hoping for. Katie raised exactly this point in an address to the First Minister at our 30th anniversary event last month. Chelsey continues to raise money by hosting an annual coffee morning. So far she has raised more than £4,000.

Big heartedness is always to be celebrated, not just at Christmas. But the great thing about the festive season is that it gives us more time to stop and reflect on the amazing acts of kindness, courage and generosity that make our lives so much better.

Peter Jones, Chair of the JDRF Scottish Development Group