Education Clinics help people with diabetes manage the disease and live healthy lives

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Amanda Macedo is six years old and she loves ice cream, McDonalds and going to school with her friends. But there is one thing that makes Amanda different from her friends, from other six-year old children – she has learned how to check her own blood sugar level, something she has to do every day. Amanda has type 1 diabetes, which means she must have a daily injection of insulin and must monitor her blood sugar level to keep the disease under control.

“Amanda was two and a half years old when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and we were so shocked,” recalls Sue Macedo, Amanda’s mom. “It was very hard at first, very scary because we didn’t really know what was happening to her when she became ill.”

Fortunately for Sue and Amanda, help was not too far away at William Osler Health Centre’s Diabetes Education Centres.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that has no cure. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, more than 2 million Canadians have diabetes, and it is a leading cause of death by disease in Canada.

The incidence of diabetes in Canada is on the rise, especially among children, and alarmingly more than half of people with diabetes don’t even know they have the disease.

It is for this reason, among many others, that Diabetes Education Centres are essential. For many people, it will be the most important education of their lives.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there about diabetes,” says Judy Fiala, Registered Dietitian at the newly expanded Diabetes Education Centre at William Osler Health Centre’s Etobicoke facility. Fiala has been involved in diabetes education for more than 10 years and says that good education is critical to managing the disease regardless of the type.

“Our main goal is to keep people healthy. The way we do that is to provide information to people about diet, medication, and exercise. We give them tools that allow them to manage their disease so that the disease does not end up managing them.”

Macedo agrees. “One of the things they teach you is to take control for yourself. Even at six years old, Amanda can check her own blood sugar levels and knows what is good and what is bad. I guess she’s had to grow up a little too quickly but I think it helps her to understand what she has and how to manage it because this will be with her the rest of her life.”

In October 2002 William Osler Health Centre received three national awards from the Canadian Diabetes Association for excellence in diabetes education and service. The Health Centre’s campuses in Brampton, Etobicoke and Georgetown were recognized as meeting the Standards for Diabetes Education in Canada.

Amanda and her Mom go every three months to William Osler Health Centre’s Diabetes Education Centre in Brampton. At the clinic, they see Val Carver, Nurse Educator, who reviews Amanda’s book of blood sugar readings, her insulin doses, and discusses behaviour issues. They also see a dietitian who takes her weight and height measurements and discusses nutrition issues.

“We have a real team approach at our clinic. We now have a strong link with The Hospital for Sick Children through Dr. Jill Hamilton, a Paediatric Endocrinologist who comes to our Brampton clinic once per month. With this expertise at our fingertips we can provide our patients with one-stop shopping. We have a level of expertise available to our communities so our patients don’t have to go to Toronto, they can get the service right in their own backyard.” notes Carver.

Satinder Mamotra, 27, is one of many people grateful to avoid the trek into downtown Toronto to receive assistance. Early into her pregnancy she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. She was very glad that she would not have to travel far to get help. “There is so much to learn in so little time I really don’t know what I would have done if I couldn’t get help quickly. The last thing I expected was to be told I have diabetes. Even though it will likely go away after my pregnancy, I still have to be very careful now for my own health and the health of my baby. The centre at the Etobicoke campus is wonderful. The nurse checks up on me regularly in between my visits to make sure everything is OK. They really care.”

With the incidence of diabetes, especially among children, on the rise in Canada, Sue Macedo has this message to parents of children who have recently been diagnosed with the disease:

“Find someone you are comfortable with and try and do as much as possible yourself. But always remember you can do it. I know that I would have been lost if it wasn’t for people like Val who care and understand what we are going through. Have confidence and know that there is support out there. You are not alone.”