This is Bella, a gorgeous, happy young girl who, sadly, suffers from a common chronic and life-threatening childhood disease, type 1 diabetes.
Children like Bella need your help. Bella was just six years old when her mum, Mary, noticed a huge change in her. She was crying a lot, felt moody, was dizzy and lost a lot of weight.
Mary said, “One spring day while playing at the park, Bella became extremely emotional, very hot and thirsty. I thought a gelato would lift her spirts, but instead it pushed her over the edge. Instantly, Bella was completely drained of energy. She struggled to walk and was exceptionally thirsty. We were so scared, we didn’t know what was happening.”
Mary took Bella to their family GP, whose reaction was swift and immediate. Bella was rushed to hospital where she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
This life-threatening condition develops abruptly when a child’s immune system mistakenly destroys healthy cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. This causes a potentially fatal increase in blood glucose (sugar) levels because, without insulin, the body’s cells can’t turn glucose into energy.
“It was really scary,” said Bella. “In the emergency ward, everyone was running around me and I didn’t know what was happening.” While she responded well to treatment, normal life had suddenly disappeared for Bella and her family.
“We were immersed into a new world of constant vigilance and monitoring to help Bella. Giving and drawing insulin, blood prick tests, and monitoring food that she could and couldn’t eat,” said Mary.
Now aged 10, Bella loves sport and is a promising runner, but during the day she needs to do at least three potentially life- saving blood prick tests and inject insulin into her leg to prevent her blood glucose levels getting too high. It’s a huge responsibility for someone so young. Type 1 diabetes is an insidious autoimmune disease, with no prevention or cure, and it affects more than 6000 Australian children, with around seven new cases diagnosed every day.
But there is hope.
We have found how a common childhood viral infection, like severe gastroenteritis, initiates a particular immune response in children who have a genetic predisposition that can culminate in type 1 diabetes.
Our research shows how a simple virus can activate cells in a child’s pancreas to silently destruct and, over time, cause irreversible inflammatory damage. Importantly, understanding
how type 1 diabetes starts will allow us to intervene sooner.
We urgently need your help to continue this vital work. With your support, our research can lead to early diagnostic tests, better treatments and ultimately a cure of type 1 diabetes.
Please donate today to help give children like Bella the best chance of a healthier future.
Your donation will make a huge difference.
Thank you for your support.