Sunday, 29 November 2015

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Carlisle family's book aims to teach children about diabetes

A mum, daughter and aunt have written a glossy book to help children record their experiences of diabetes.

Diabetic diary web grab photo

Tracy Johnston, her daughter Sam Armstrong and Sam’s aunt Michelle McNabb, have been working on My Diabetic Diary since Sam – now 22 – was a child.

Tracy, of Dalegarth Avenue, Harraby, Carlisle, said: “Sam was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was five. It was a condition we knew nothing about so we had to learn quickly.

“Sam coped very well with diabetes – but I was always worrying because she was so young.

“Sam has never been expected to be treated any different because of it, however this is not to underestimate how complex this condition is and the impact it can it can have on your health if not managed properly.

“When a child is diagnosed it is a huge responsibility for parents and family members not only to learn about the condition themselves, but to teach the child about the importance of managing their diabetes to ensure good health both now and in the future.

“We used to write things down on bits of paper like her blood sugar levels and menus but we had no central place to keep them so they were always all over the place.

“This diary means everything can be kept in one place and is useful when information has to be passed on to family, friends and teachers.

“There was nothing on the market like this when Sam was a child.”

Tracy, a support worker for adults with learning disabilities, first started working on the diary when Sam was seven.

“We made Sam a home-made version of this diary and added some pictures to make it more fun. The book grew as time went on with added suggestions from family and friends until it finally became the book it is today.

“Sam has been the biggest contributor to the book as a child as she was central to the idea and it was developed as she grew up, giving a child’s point of view.”

But Tracy said producing the book has not been easy. “We’ve hit barriers all the way – there have been a lot of hurdles to overcome and we kept putting the diary in a drawer and then bringing it out again and doing a bit more work,” she said:

It’s hoped the diary will be used in clinics and schools so children can learn about diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes usually starts in young people and is a condition where the pancreas stops producing insulin. We need insulin in our bodies to control glucose levels, this is why people with diabetes need to replace insulin every day, either by injection or pump.

Dr John Campbell, a senior lecturer in nursing studies at the University of Cumbria, has written the foreword to the 183-page book.

He said: “Having one single book is a great idea, as it can be used to record everything and will be sent with the child on sleepovers and camps which are a normal part of an active childhood. It will be a useful aid to communicating the needs of the child to teachers and friends alike. The approach taken in the diary is child accessible in a non-patronising way.”

Tracy, 45, said: “Our greatest wish is always in hope of a cure for diabetes but, until that time, our hope is that our diary can facilitate good care and management of type 1 diabetes.”

The A4 book is illustrated by Malcolm Little and printed by Colophon Printers in Carlisle.

It costs £19.99 and £1 from every sale goes to the charity Diabetes UK.

For more information visit


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