We chat to Kyra Stevens, a 15-year-old living with Type 1 diabetes, who saved her athletics coach, Shafiek Murphy’s (48) life, with quick-thinking and action when he went into a diabetic coma.
Kyra Stevens (15) lives in Kenilworth, Cape Town with her parents, Marco and Kim, and her brother. She is a Grade 9 pupil at Sans Souci Girls High School.
Kyra to the rescue
On 11 July 2019, Shafiek Murphy, a Type 1 diabetes patient, was found on the floor, in the community room, at the school. He had recently returned from the Winter Games, in Durban, where he coached the Western Cape girls U/15 rugby team. Unfortunately, he became ill while on tour.
The principal, Ruschda O’Shea, and two other teachers were called. Kyra sprang to their minds as she has diabetes as well, and had informed the school. When Kyra arrived, she tested Shafiek’s blood glucose level which was extremely high. She then administered insulin into his abdomen, before another teacher rushed him to hospital.
At the hospital, Shafiek’s blood glucose level was 36 which is near fatal. After X-rays, Shafiek was diagnosed with a chest infection and tonsillitis. The doctor explained that if Kyra had administered the insulin five or 10 minutes later, Shafiek would have died.
One-on-one with Kyra
Tell us in your own words what happened on that day when you saved your coach’s life.
I was in a class lesson. Then very randomly my maths teacher approached me in the class and asked for my glucometer. I asked him why. He responded by saying that someone went into a diabetic coma. I gave him my FreeStyle Optium Neo glucometer and told him that he has to warm the fingers before checking the glucose level.
No later than five minutes, I was called via the intercom to come to the community room. I ran there knowing that is was Coach Murphy as he was the only other person in the school who has diabetes. When I got there, they told me I must test his glucose levels. So, I got everything ready.
But when I pricked a finger on Coach Murphy’s left hand, no blood came out as his hands were already cold. I told one of the teachers to warm up his right hand warm so I could get blood.
Eventually I got blood and his glucose level was really was high. Immediately, I asked where his emergency kit and insulin were. I found his insulin in his bag and injected 25 units in his abdomen.
After that Coach Murphy was taken to the hospital. The very next day, he phoned me to say the doctor said if it wasn’t for me, he would have died. So, I saved his life.
Are you proud of yourself?
I am proud. But, at the moment, I have no words to explain how. Everybody is asking me how do you feel and how this, and how that and I’m like, “Ja!”
Do you and Coach Murphy have a good relationship?
Coach Murphy started working as the Head of Sports at our school at the beginning of the year. So, yes we have a relationship and we had spoken to each other about diabetes. But since this incident, we have become closer. I have been checking up on his every day, sending him messages asking if he is okay.
When were you diagnosed with diabetes?
Two years ago in July 2017. I am currently using an insulin pen and administrate Humalog, Protaphane and Actrapid.
Has it been easy to be open about your diabetes at school?
Yes it has. I have told most of my friends and all my teachers know. At the beginning of the year, my parents had a meeting with all my teachers and the Grade Head. The first year I was diagnosed, my parents also held a meeting so all my teachers knew.
Have you ever experienced bad lows or highs?
Yes I have, but I have never gone into a diabetic coma.
Have you fully accepted your diabetes?
Yes and no. More a no, because I don’t have a grasp on it yet. It’s not easy for me because I have never had to checked my glucose before I ate. Now I do.
Normally, I was like, ‘Okay food is ready.’ But now, I see my brother eating and my mom and dad eating and I’m the only one who has to check my glucose levels before I can eat. Sometimes I’m really hungry so I don’t check and then don’t inject at all.
Has this incident showed that good management of glucose levels is important?
Absolutely! Now more than before it’s encouraged all of us (my family) to be more aware of what could happen if we don’t control my numbers.
One-on-one with Kim Stevens, Kyra’s mom
How proud are you of your daughter?
When Kyra came home and told us about the incident, she played it off as though it was not a big deal. It was only until I heard from Coach Murphy that I completely understood the gravity of what took place. It is a super proud moment, for myself and my husband, to know that Kyra was calm under pressure and she managed to do what she did. I don’t know if I would have been able to do it.
How does it make you feel to see your daughter go through the journey of accepting her diabetes?
I think Kyra going through puberty has a lot to do with being able to accept being diabetic. Plus, she was diagnosed with ADHD in Grade 3. That was hard for us to get through and work through.
Kyra attended Timour Hall Primary School and every single year of primary school was hard for Kyra. Hard to make friends, hard to keep friends, hard to get invited to parties, hard to please teachers. She was always in trouble.
But then she started Grade 7 and she absolutely enjoyed it and there was such a change. Once we got the ADHD under control, she was then diagnosed with diabetes. This news has thrown our whole family into a total spin and it has been hard for her to accept.
But due to the fact that she used her knowledge to save someone’s life is tremendous. This shows us that even though she acts like she’s not interested in the management of her diabetes, she has taken note of what to do. So, it gives us, as parents, a little more confidence to be able to trust her if something should go wrong.
Is Kyra’s medication covered by medical aid or public hospitals?
We started off at The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital at the Diabetic Clinic there. It is a fantastic hospital, with brilliant doctors. Everyone was super nice and the education we got there was top class.
Since the beginning of this year, we were transferred to the outpatients at the Groote Schuur Hospital as part of the adolescents diabetic clinic. She still gets to see the same doctors because the doctors work at both hospitals. We collect her medication from the public hospital, Groote Schuur Hospital.
What are the financial implications of having a child with diabetes?
I think I speak for everyone when it comes to eating healthy. It is just so expensive. So, we try to encourage Kyra to inject. I made a deal with her that she can eat what she feels like, but she must inject. There was a period, for about six months, where she wasn’t injecting at all. She wasn’t even checking her glucose levels. Because of this, we considered trying a continuous glucose monitor but it was just expensive. We cannot even think about getting her one.
I was thinking of doing fundraisers to raise funds but that money will only last so long. What happens after that? So, the financial implications are quite severe. My husband and I run a small business, and have to pay salaries and adding a diagnosis of diabetes to the mix has just thrown us in the deep end. We still just trying to swim. But, we will do what we have to to ensure Kyra’s health is good.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org