A Lecturer at the University of Chester is looking to raise a million – steps that is – for a charity that has meant so much to his family.
From Wednesday, July 1, he is starting his one million steps challenge to raise money for Diabetes UK. That means he’ll need to complete 11,000 steps every day for three months (which should come to around 500 miles).
Gareth will be taking the challenge to help raise money, and awareness for the condition, because his three-year-old daughter, Gracie, is a Type 1 diabetic.
Gareth explains how they first found out about Gracie’s diabetes: “Gracie was first diagnosed at the age of one (three weeks before her second birthday), after almost falling into a coma with a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (a result of uncontrolled diabetes).
“She started on the Monday with cold-like symptoms, and with increased thirst, which we initially put down to her having a sore throat. By Thursday she wasn’t herself and was very out of sorts. Thursday night was met with vomiting all night, so we got her in at the GPs on Friday morning. They rushed us to hospital. During that journey, Gracie was losing consciousness. Thankfully, the hospital had Gracie diagnosed in 10 minutes. She was on a drip throughout Friday until Saturday morning. Remarkably, she was home Saturday night.”
Gareth explains what had happened to Gracie’s body: “Basically her body was attacking its own pancreas. This is the organ that produces insulin. Insulin is like a key which opens the door on cells, allowing sugars from our food into the cells to make energy. As Gracie couldn’t produce enough insulin anymore, her body began to breakdown fats in her body (producing a chemical called ketones) which made her blood too acidic. As the cells couldn’t get enough energy, they started to break down. As soon as insulin and sugar were back in her system, she was normalised.”
This means that Gracie will now require insulin injections for the rest of her life. Before every meal, Gareth and his wife, Joanne, work out how many carbohydrates are in the meal and use special maths - unique to Gracie - to work out how much insulin she will need to cover this meal. That also means frequent finger pricks for blood testing and at least five insulin injections a day. This is particularly challenging given Gracie’s young age - if she doesn’t finish her meal, she runs the risk of becoming hypoglycaemic (where there is too much insulin in the system and blood sugar drops too low) which can cause death.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Gareth says Gracie has taken to it fantastically: “She understands her “pankwee” doesn’t work and that she’s a diabetic. She has recently begun to give herself the injections and has the finger pricks down to a fine art.”
Despite Gareth’s background working in hospitals, understanding the theory, and being used to taking blood and using needles for medical research, Gareth says that there is still no preparation for when it happens to your own child: “My wife and I had a steep learning curve and had to get over the awful feeling of inflicting pain on our own child. There was a time whilst she was on a drip where we thought she wouldn’t wake up. However, my background helped get Gracie home quicker and it helped that I could explain it in a way my family could understand.
“We are so lucky to be under the care of the team at a fantastic hospital (Warrington). They have been fantastic from the second she was diagnosed and continuously provide help and support.”
Gareth promised the staff at Warrington – and Gracie herself – that he would fundraise every year to help raise money and awareness for both Warrington Hospital and diabetes in general. Last year, he took on the Kapow superhero challenge and raised over £500 for Warrington Hospital.
This year he is walking the equivalent of 500 miles between July 1 and September 30, with the aim to raise £150 for Diabetes UK (with the understanding that fundraising during COVID-19 may mean that people are not able to give as generously as they did last year).
Gareth has these handy tips to share to help ensure everyone knows the potential diabetic signs to look out for:
“Everyone at any age should be aware of diabetes and how dangerous it can be - both type 1 and type 2. Parents should be looking at the 4 Ts which we missed ourselves (possibly trying not to think the worst):
Toilet – increased urination
Tired – increased tiredness and sleeping
Thirsty – drinking more than usual
Thinner – marked weight loss with no other explanation.
“As you can see from Gracie’s story, her escalation occurred over four days - so the sooner you spot the signs the better.”
To support Gareth in his challenge, please visit: