We hear why Emmanuel Rajah chose to volunteer at DSA and about his experience of sharing the role of caregiver to his younger brother, Joshua Mhlanga, who has Type 1 diabetes.
Emmanuel Rajah (30) lives in Parow Central, Cape Town. He plans to finish a Pharmacist Assistant Learnership Programme and would like to practice paramedicine. He is also a full-time international fashion model.
I call my younger brother, Joshua, my bestie. He will be turning 13 this year and is in Grade 7. When he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I had no knowledge of diabetes. It was a complete new chapter that we, my mother and I, had to adapt to. I was now not only his brother but my role changed to caregiver.
In the early days, I watched him cry when we administered his injections. It was in this time that I learnt to be strong for him and would kindly remind him that checking his blood glucose levels is crucial, that if we check it, it will help to be well-managed and would help him to be and live happier just like a child without diabetes.
It was a difficult time for everyone in the family, as we all had to learn how to give the right dosage and learn more about what a balanced diet consists of.
Expressing my love for him
Being a caregiver to him was an opportunity of expressing my love for him and to provide him with full unconditional love that reassures him that he matters and that being different from other children is okay.
Some of the difficult times is when he is extremely energetic and at the same time frustrated. I try to teach him to practice patience. This is a time where he needs someone around that he trusts to calm him down and rejuvenate him.
The scary situations are when his glucose levels are extremely low and this shows in various body reactions. I have accepted that panicking is normal and stress levels starts to rise as we don’t want anything to happen. But thankfully through the years, I have learned to be calm and have faith.
We give him a couple of sweet treats or banana loaf with milk, and after 15 minutes we suddenly hear his loud voice and know he is okay. Sometimes when it’s too hot he falls asleep in the car; that is also a sign that his glucose is low.
Impact on my health
Joshua’s diagnosis has had a good impact on my own health. It was so much easier to follow a food plan. My love for food grew, and I focused on adopting a well-balanced diet. I learnt how to make different dishes tasty without meat and it helped me stay in shape.
Honestly, cooking became therapeutic for me and I healed from past traumas through cooking healthy meals for someone close to my heart.
Not only has my knowledge of diabetes grown due to my brother’s condition but I’m now assisting the diabetes community by volunteering at DSA Cape Town branch.
I assist wherever help is needed but the best description is office assistant. It’s an environment where teamwork is essential and I see it as an achievement that I can add to my service to humanity.
From being my bestie’s caregiver to becoming a caregiver to every member of DSA organisation, it takes a lot of courage, faith, consistency, and dedication to learn about diabetes and make an impact to the whole of South Africa where we have family, friends, loved ones, colleagues, and the list goes on, living with diabetes.
The National Manager of DSA, Margot Mc Cumisky, is a great mentor and one of the reasons why I love working at DSA. I’m proud to say I started the new Instagram account
We will also soon be releasing the 2023 T1 Youth warrior camp information. I will be a youth leader at the camp, and I work closely with Cain Tibbs and Robin Breedeveld in organising the camp.
Advice to caregivers
Diabetes is a condition that is just like any other sickness, it can be diagnosed without even expecting it. How you beat it, is based on a simple yet hard decision to make: what you eat. Everything you put in your mouth can either advance your longevity of life or rob you of the most precious time with your loved ones.
You can beat diabetes by carefully trying to practice and follow the suggested meal recipes available on diabetessa.org.za and signing up for DSA’s monthly newsletters for more tips on how to beat diabetes. Drinking lots of water helps and constantly monitoring your glucose. It’s vital to understand how your body or your child’s body functions. The quicker you understand this, the better it becomes for monitoring and knowing the different symptoms they feel.
For me, healthy habits means staying true to your journey. You are what you eat. It means exercise, being present in your day-to-day activities; meditate, be grateful, believe, and continue to allow yourself to experience the imagination of your creativity. Take it day by day. Be conscious of your thoughts and mind, and keep them directed on your goals.
You also must have a resilient mindset to stay disciplined to a routine of success. When you eat healthy, you feel healthy, when you talk healthy, you act healthy and your skin glows.
When you have created healthy habits within you, you spread healthy habits. Everything that is good is contagious; everyone around you will start following your habits and that creates an impact in the community.
MEET OUR EDITOR
Laurelle Williams is the Editor at Word for Word Media. She graduated from AFDA with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Live Performance. She has a love for storytelling and sharing emotions through the power of words. Her aim is to educate, encourage and most of all show there is always hope. Feel free to email Laurelle on [email protected]
Header image supplied