Stawell’s Jack Clementson breaking down misconceptions around Type one diabetes


TWO years ago, Jack Clementson’s life as he knew it was turned on its head. The eleven year-old Stawell boy didn’t have a trouble in the world and was going through life like most other children. After coming down with the virus known as hand, foot and mouth disease, Jack took a long time to recover. At the conclusion of a long, drawn out process, on July 11, 2017 the active young child and his family learned Jack has type one diabetes. His mother, Elisha, said she had an inkling something wasn’t right. “I noticed Jack was going to the toilet a lot and had insatiable thirst,” she said. “Looking back, there was some weight loss, which we didn’t really notice. “I had a girlfriend with a child with type one diabetes, so I reached out to her and she said get him to doctors straight away.” READ MORE: Labor pledges $50m for diabetes research Coming to terms with the diagnosis was a challenge at the start. “I was scared,” Jack said. “I had all sorts of tests and needles. I stayed in hospital for five days. “For the first four months, I had to check my blood sugar levels about 10 times a day and give myself insulin a number of times a day.” Jack now has a pump which administers his insulin, reflective of the data which is entered remotely. Studying year six at Stawell 502 Primary School in 2019, Jack said he found most children accepting and understanding. “Some kids outside of my school couldn’t understand what was wrong with me,” he said. “My teacher explained to my class, when I was first diagnosed, what it was all about. “Kids are curious about my insulin pump when they see it. No one really understands what it is – but I’m getting better and telling them what it is in a nutshell.” Mrs Clementson said the pump made life easier. “His blood sugars stabilised when he got the pump put in,” she said. “Jack’s levels are getting better and better every time we go in for check-ups. “There are talks of a new pump being released later in the year, which will allow us to track everything that little bit better.” Mrs Clementson said awareness was the next best thing to finding a cure. “The topic is becoming more prevalent within society,” she said. “But there is still a long way to go. I had no idea about anything when Jack was first diagnosed. I still remember the first thing I said when we found out was: ‘But we don’t give him sugary drinks and we don’t eat unhealthy foods’. READ MORE: Push for diabetes monitor device subsidy “Of course I had the wrong ‘type’ of diabetes. Jack has been questioned in the past if he got diabetes because he had too many soft drinks or lollies.” Jack said it was frustrating at times when people didn’t understand the condition. “One of my friends said: ‘I am going to get diabetes soon because I eat too much sugar’,” he said. “Having diabetes hasn’t really stopped me from doing anything or playing sport. I just learn all the time how to manage diabetes with my everyday life.” Since Jack’s diagnosis, the Clementson family have participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation One Walk in Ballarat – a fundraiser for the foundation. The family have joined support networks along their journey – Jack bonding with 25-year-old Ballarat man Luke Saunderson. Mr Saunderson and the Clementson family joined forces this year in a bid to raise much-needed money to raise awareness of diabetes. “I’ve participated in the walk at Ballarat for the past two years,” he said. “I’ve never really made a team or raised funds. After meeting the Clementsons I thought, why not make a team and see if we could raise some money to go towards the foundation? “There are so many different areas where money is needed. We need a cure. The disease sucks, it really does.” Mr Saunderson said after he was diagnosed with type one diabetes at age 14 and, like Jack, his whole life changed. “It affects not only your physical health but your emotional health as well,” he said. “It has massive financial impacts as well. “This isn’t just personally. My mum has been my biggest supporter for the past 10 years in managing my diabetes – but it’s put as much stress and strain on her as myself.” Mr Saunderson said a cure was something he hoped everyone was fighting to achieve. “Yes money is needed for research for a cure, but research into management of diabetes is needed as well,” he said. “Currently on the market there is a device which monitors your blood sugar levels all the time but it is quite expensive. “For someone like myself, a full-time uni student who also works and pays rent when I can, it’s not viable. “We need to find new ways to manage the disease while there is no cure.” Jack said Mr Saunderson was a role model to him. “It encourages me to look after myself,” Mr Saunderson said. “To know I am a bit of an influence on him and that pushes me to control my diabetes a little bit better. “At the end of the day, I don’t want him to look up to me and think well Luke’s not in control and that’s OK if I’m not either. “I want him to look up to me and say, ‘Luke is really fighting to manage his diabetes, I want to be like Luke as well’. “When young people look up to you in that way it’s a responsibility which older diabetics need to bring within the diabetic community to those younger people.” “It’s about time you took the time” is the motto of the 2019 National Diabetes Week. Diabetes Australia is reminding people to take the time to learn the ‘4Ts’ which are early signs of type one diabetes. For type two diabetes, this means taking the time to get checked. Stawell Regional Health’s clinical nurse consultant-diabetes educator Sue Fontana said half a million people might have undiagnosed type two diabetes. “Too many people are diagnosed with diabetes too late,” she said. “Early diagnosis and treatment can greatly reduce your risk. “Type two diabetes can do serious damage if not diagnosed early. It is the leading cause of blindness, kidney damage, heart attack and amputation.” Mrs Fontana said hundreds of patients were hospitalised because the early signs of type one diabetes were missed. “Type one diabetes can be dangerous if not diagnosed in time,” she said. “Getting to know the symptoms and to know the 4T early signs is a key message this year for National Diabetes Week. “The four T’s include toilet, tired, thinner and thirsty.” READ MORE: Hunter Medical Research trial brings a new mobile phone app to manage type 1 diabetes Mrs Fontana said there were many ways people could seek help in the region. “In the first instance, if anyone has any concerns about diabetes they should contact their GP about having a check,” she said. “There are many services locally for people with diabetes. Stawell Regional Health have a range of services including diabetes education, dietetic and podiatrist services. “An exercise physiologist is available to help support patients with with an exercise plan. “A person who has a chronic or terminal medical condition can set up a GP Management Plan including a diabetes management plan specific for a client to help support them to manage their condition.” While you’re with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox each Friday morning from the Stawell Times-News. To make sure you’re up-to-date with all the news from across the Northern Grampians shire, sign up here.

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