Early gift brings quality of life for diabetes patient

CHRISTMAS GIFT: Victor Harbor's Josh and Rebecca Wenham are excited about Josh receiving an insulin pump in early 2014 to help manage his diabetes.
CHRISTMAS GIFT: Victor Harbor's Josh and Rebecca Wenham are excited about Josh receiving an insulin pump in early 2014 to help manage his diabetes.

VICTOR HARBOR - Christmas came early for one Victor Harbor family this month, who can now enjoy the day with the knowledge their diabetic son will have a better quality of life in the new year.

Nine-year-old Josh Wenham and his family have secured $6000 government funding through the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) towards the cost of an insulin pump to manage his diabetes.

Josh has been on a strict eating and insulin injections schedule since August 2010, when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

The Wenhams had a visit from a Flinders Medical Centre diabetic educator last week. She gave them a brief run through of how the 'Medtronic Diabetes Pump' works and how it would connect to Josh.

The pump will automatically dispense insulin into Josh's blood stream according to how many carbs he eats, mimicking what a healthy pancreas does.

"We've got to do some more intense carb counting in grams," Rebecca said.

"So a piece of toast, he'll put 15 grams of carbs in, and it will distribute the insulin for that.

"He still has to eat healthy, but he can eat more."

The pump can be disconnected for up to two hours at a time, which Rebecca thinks will be useful for Josh's active lifestyle. He will now be able to go swimming, stay on-field with teammates during cricket games (instead of coming off-field for injections and food), and attend parties, school camps and excursions.

The pump will have ongoing costs to keep it running, including replacing batteries and purchasing more cannulas.

"It will be about $40 a month for the stuff we need," Rebecca said.

"There's a little bit of maintenance for it, but it doesn't matter."

The pump will record information about Josh's insulin doses and blood glucose levels (BGLs), which will automatically transmit onto a USB. Josh's doctor will then be able to access the information whenever he needs to, so if Josh's BGL is too high, his doctor will be able to see it in the pump's records and address it.

The resulting BGL stability means Josh's long-term health is expected to improve, and he will be able to avoid typical diabetic-related medical issues such as heart disease and having limbs amputated in the future.

Neville and Rebecca received notification of the funding approval from the JDRF about three weeks ago, and Josh must now have an appointment with a dietician before the pump arrives at Flinders Medical Centre.

The funding had been in limbo because of the federal election - it would normally have been distributed to the JDRF on July 1, but came through in September instead.

"We're hoping to have him pumping in the first few weeks of January," Rebecca said.

"I think he'll do well, he seemed fairly comfortable with it.

"We've just got to keep pushing its benefits to him. Once he's all attached and realises he can eat what he wants, he'll be alright."

Rebecca said managing the pump will be daunting at first, but ultimately worth it.

"I'm a bit nervous about the first few weeks, but excited - it will be good.

"I think it will change his life around."