Sunday, February 10, 2008

Experiences of a teen Diabetic

Softly spoken 19-year-old Hannah was recruited to the band by her lead-singing brother in 2004. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a few years before this, when she was 12. “I was feeling very tired, thirsty all the time, waking up every night to go to the toilet and I lost a stone really suddenly. My mum recognised the symptoms and got me a doctor’s appointment where we did a urine test. I was rushed to hospital and before I knew it I was back home with syringes and needles. It all happened in one day.”
A good book

It was an upsetting time for Hannah, but she recalls a strange coincidence that helped. “The book I was reading at the time – 'The Babysitters’ Club' – actually had someone with diabetes in it, so I knew what to expect.”

But Hannah was needle phobic, so how did she come to terms with injecting? “Well, at first my mum did it for me, and gradually she held her hand on top of mine and after a few months I managed to do it on my own. I am still needle phobic – I hate having my blood readings taken, but diabetic needles are so small and you get used to it. Having support from a friend or a parent is a good way to get over it, too.”

So has diabetes stopped Hannah fulfilling her ambitions? No way.

“I started piano lessons when I was nine and did my grade eight two years ago. From the age of 12 I’ve always wanted to be in the fashion industry, so to agree to go into the band was a complete change of ambition. But I love it and after a few practices I was sure it was what I wanted to do for life,” Hannah says.
Mixing music with study

With the band and her A levels to contend with, a change in Hannah’s treatment regime was on the cards. So, having consulted her doctor, she switched from twice-daily injections of Mixtard 30 to twice daily injections of Lantus, a long-acting insulin.

At first it was hard for Hannah but now it has its benefits. “I am now able to eat what I want when I want. I can have a salad and not worry about injecting or, if I fancy a chocolate bar, I can cover it with the correct amount of NovoRapid. Leading up to a gig I check my levels before going on stage. If it is below 7mmol/l I’ll drink a small glass of Coke to avoid having a hypo.”

But how does Hannah know how to adjust her insulin dose to suit her carb intake? “I was told that everyone’s body is different and so I would have to work out myself how many units I would have to take for each gram of carbohydrate I eat. I started with 1 unit for every 5g. My blood glucose was slightly high for this ratio, so I lowered it by taking 1 unit for every 3g of carbohydrate.”

Hannah takes being the only girl in a band with four boys in her stride. “It’s fine. I like it. Obviously, because my brother is the lead singer, if anyone is out of line I have him to stick up for me.”

WinterKids’ music is reminiscent of ’80s bands like The Cure and The Inspiral Carpets, so is Hannah herself influenced by that musical era? “Because I was classically trained as a pianist I listen to all sorts of different music. If you listen to the part I play on keyboard, it sounds a bit more like Bach and modern-day sounds like Imogen Heap. It’s my brother who is more influenced by sounds like The Cure.”

What about an awareness-raising song about diabetes? “We haven’t done one yet, but that’s a very good idea. I suppose I don’t think about doing things like that because diabetes is part of who I am so I don’t think of it twice. But I will definitely raise the subject of that in the next band practice.”

WinterKids released their debut single 'I’m not used to you' in summer 2006 with critical acclaim from the likes of Steve Lamacq at Radio One and music magazine NME, and have played gigs all around the country – even abroad in Sweden. They fund their endeavours by running a monthly indie music night in their hometown Guildford, and through CD sales online and in selected stores.

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