Dad and daughter's double diabetes diagnosis

Double diagnosis ... Gareth Collins, 33, and his daughter Shiloh, 2.
Double diagnosis ... Gareth Collins, 33, and his daughter Shiloh, 2. Photo: Claudia Baxter

As a carefree 10-year-old, Gareth Collins had no inkling he was developing a medical condition which would change his life.

He began experiencing some of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes - constantly going to the bathroom, and drinking up to two litres of water every night.

Despite no family history of the disease, a visit to the doctor confirmed his diabetes diagnosis 23 years ago.

"In the end I probably lost a third of my body weight and went to the doctor and was given a blood test," he said.

The results came back with a blood sugar reading of 26, substantially higher than the normal range level of 7.

After his diagnosis, Mr Collins's parents decided to leave him the responsibility of managing his five daily insulin injections.

"It took a little while. To a certain degree you grow up a hell of a lot quicker. You have to have responsibility about what you do and there are a lot of diabetics that go in the opposite direction," he said.

"It was quite a shock. I went through a range of emotions, of 'Why me?'"

"I had no idea what it really meant."

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The father of three girls hoped his children would avoid the disease.

But two months ago his two-year-old daughter, Shiloh, was also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Her diagnosis came as surprise to Mr Collins and his wife.

"She had lost a little bit of weight, but nothing that was irregular until after the fact," he said.

"We were out one day and she was asking for some water - she had an unnatural amount of thirst." 

When Mr Collins then performed a finger prick test on his daughter to check her blood sugar reading, the test returned a reading of 72. He was shocked - the highest he had ever tested was 56, and at the time it had left him in a coma for three days.  

"She was off the scale," he said.

Type 1 and Type 2

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin at all. It differs from type 2 diabetes, in which insulin production can be limited.

Diabetes Queensland today launched a campaign, on World Diabetes Day, with the slogan "There are many types of diabetes - This is 1", to help people distinguish between the two versions.

Mr Collins said that when he speaks to people about his diagnosis, many people believe the disease had been brought on by his lifestyle.

"When you say you are a diabetic people ask 'Were you overweight as a kid?' So there is a lot of awareness that needs to be happening," he said.

TYPE 1 DIABETES

  • Type 1 diabetes isn't preventable and there is no cure.
  • It can occur at any age, but it's most often diagnosed in children and young adults.
  • A child with type 1 diabetes will have 20,000 insulin injections by their 18th birthday.
  • Type 1 diabetes affects 10 -15 per cent of all people with diabetes.

To read more of Gareth Collins's story, visit his blog, My Life With T1D.