Gympie region's unknown auto immune epidemic

SUPPORTER: Gympie's Sam Lourigan, a Type 1 diabetic, says new blood monitoring technology will save lives, for those who can afford it.
SUPPORTER: Gympie's Sam Lourigan, a Type 1 diabetic, says new blood monitoring technology will save lives, for those who can afford it. Tom Daunt

IT IS the killer auto immune disease even doctors know little about.

For sufferers - more than 1650 of them in Gympie's hospital and health district alone - it is a sometimes barely manageable and constantly life threatening form of diabetes.

There is no cure and it cannot be prevented.

No-one knows what causes it, although some patients say its onset may have been linked to stress or serious illness.

And it can happen to anyone, according to Gympie mother-of-two Sam Lourigan, who was diagnosed with the illness when she was 18.

"I was a healthy child and this was a shock to me and my family,” she said.

While a cure is on every sufferer's wish list, the Wishlist Foundation is taking steps towards at least helping.

The foundation raises funds for improving hospital facilities and services in Gympie's Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service.

Its current campaign is to raise money for a trial of potentially life saving, but quite expensive, continuous blood sugar monitors.

The monitors allow diabetics to check their blood sugar levels 24 hours a day, with fewer finger-prick blood tests.

Wishlist communications officer Bianca Keegan says the equipment also has an alarm to warn of fluctuations.”

"Currently there are more than 1650 people in the region battling the life-long condition, and many of these are children,” she said.

The financial catch is that the monitors cost $1800 each.

Wishlist CEO Lisa Rowe said donations are needed and 100 per cent of money raised would go directly to the cause.

"Every dollar counts and Wishlist's operational costs are all covered by its enterprises, including the Nambour Hospital car park.

Mrs Lourigan says the auto immune form of diabetes "is incurable and destroys the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin.

"I've had many visits to Gympie Hospital, including being admitted for severe highs, called ketoacidosis, where my body starts to shut down.

"I have also experienced the other extreme, where my sugar levels have dropped so low that I fit.”

Many sufferers go to bed each night wondering if they will wake up.

The so-called "dead in bed syndrome” is a fearful daily reality for people who find their blood sugar levels fluctuating because of stress, illness or changed medication.

Other long term complications include renal failure, irreversible problems with eyesight and painful ulcers, she said.

"The purchase of these monitors would mean people like myself would be able to trial the best treatment technology right here in Gympie, without the need to travel to Nambour or the Sunshine Coast University Hospital,”

Gympie diabetes educator Carolyn Allen says the monitors are life changing.

"There is a high rate of burnout for people living with and managing diabetes every day. These monitors give extra peace of mind, especially for those who live remotely.

Donations can be made online at ''

Topics:  auto immune blood monitoring technology gympie type 1 diabetes wishlist

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