Debbie Young is a JDRF supporter and mother to Laura, an eight year old girl with type 1 diabetes. They both attended the JDRF Type 1 Discovery Day at Puxton Park on Saturday 7 May 2011 and Debbie has written an account of the day...
Not being much of a scientist, when I went along to this year’s JDRF Discovery Day at Puxton Park I was prepared for the scientific presentations to go over my head. So I was mightily impressed when I realised that thanks to Dr Garry Dolton I suddenly understood the concept of T-cells and their role in the development of type 1 diabetes.
Dr Dolton is part of the T-cell Modulation Group (www.tcells.org) at Cardiff University School of Medicine’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Biochemistry. His team is carrying out valuable research into why certain T-cells attack insulin-producing cells. Their findings could be critical on the path to preventing and reversing type 1 diabetes. Dr Dolton’s description of T-cells ‘touring the body on surveillance seeking infections and bacteria to kill,’ (mistakenly striking pancreatic beta cells en route) brought James Bond to mind. Never has the search for the cure sounded so exciting! The futuristic laser technology used to identify and track them would certainly seem at home in a 007 film. JDRF is the sole source of funding for this ground-breaking project, and Dr Dolton’s eloquent and accessible explanation was a persuasive argument to support JDRF.
But the Discovery Day was not just about the search for the cure. It also advised how best to manage diabetes until the cure is found. Sabrina Dawe, a volunteer from www.input.me.uk, gave a crystal clear explanation of the value of insulin pumps as an alternative to injection therapy. Her own son has used a pump since diagnosis at 11 months, but her explanation was measured and rational, rather than evangelical – this was no sales pitch. Instead it simply equipped the audience to make their own decisions about whether a pump would be right for them.
The Discovery Day balanced the science of type 1 diabetes and its management with coping strategies for the emotional burden that diabetes places on the individual and their family. Annabel Astle, whose daughter Mimi was diagnosed with type 1 when a baby, gave a moving but ultimately positive account of how diabetes has affected her whole family. Annabel’s husband Jeff then reported on his means of coping by taking a practical approach to fundraising. Along with Sabrina Dawe and 11 other members of ‘Team Pingu’, he ran this year’s London Marathon.
By the end of the morning the audience was left in no doubt as to the value of supporting JDRF, whatever their preferred method of fundraising. We then spent the afternoon enjoying the wonderful family facilities of Puxton Park (free admission was kindly granted to families attending the Discovery Day). The highlight was the amazing owl encounter – catch it next time if you missed it and you will remember it for the rest of your life! I was left buoyed up by the whole day and more resolved than ever to complete my mission the following weekend of running the Bristol 10k for Team Pingu. (Not sure whether I’ll ever make marathon status!)
But that night I was brought back to earth when my daughter had a severe hypo at 3am. Frightening in its intensity, it was a sobering reminder that seeking the cure for type 1 diabetes is a serious, urgent business.
I am thankful to JDRF for all that they do. Their search for the cure continues behind closed doors as we go about our daily lives managing our children’s condition. JDRF then open the doors to us on these occasions and gives us hope for their future.
For further information on JDRF's Type 1 Discovery Days and other similar events, please visit http://www.jdrf.org.uk/research