Chosen for IDF Young Leaders in Diabetes Programme

DSA Port Elizabeth management board member, Ernest Groenewald, was recently selected as the only South African to be part of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) Young Leaders in Diabetes Programme (YLD) 2022-2024. We chat to him about this.


Ernest Groenewald (27) lives in the Eastern Cape and is currently studying a Bachelor of Education in intermediate phase teaching.

Ernest is a member of the management board of DSA, Port Elizabeth. His portfolio is camp director; he oversees the Type 1 camps in the PE region. He had planned Camp Diabetable which was supposed to take place last year August. But due to COVID, it had to be postponed. When asked how he dealt with the delay, he explains, “It hasn’t been easy. As I have had a lot of personal problems that I had to deal with. Grief of a loved one has never been easy especially someone so close. Also having COVID 19 in the glooming background made matters more severe. Postponing the camp was the only option.” Though he is very eager kick the year off with the long-awaited DSA Camp Diabetable.

Plus, with the fantastic opportunity of being selected as South Africa’s only representative for the IDF YLD programme, he is set to make the most of this year.

Selection process

Ernest explains the selection process, “There was an application process where candidates around the world had to fill in and submit. All criteria needed to be fulfilled and the person applying had to be part of an NPO and be in good standing with them. I was lucky enough to have been approached and nominated by Margot McCumisky, National manager of DSA, as well as Martin and Elizabeth Prinsloo who run the Port Elizabeth branch.

New challenge and opportunities

The 27-year-old was thrilled when he was chosen. “The opportunity entails learning as well as travelling possibilities where I will interact with other people living with diabetes around the world. I also get the opportunity to get more in-depth education on managing diabetes as well as being able to use that knowledge to help others.”

The scholarship will also see Ernest having to raise awareness and be an active activist for diabetes. This excites Ernest and he has great plans ahead. “I want to work towards a better education system for newly diagnosed diabetes patients at government hospitals and clinics and work towards continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to be freely available for people with diabetes.

We wish Ernest all the best and can’t wait to see the success of this excellent opportunity.

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 editor@diabetesfocus.co.za


Megan Soanes – Nurse, mother and wife

DSA SA Port Elizabeth board member, Megan Soanes, shares what it is like to have both her husband and son have Type 1 diabetes.


Megan Soanes lives in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) with her husband, Scott and their two children, Gabriel (11) and Cheyanne (4).

My husband has Type 1 diabetes

My husband, Scott (45) was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 12; he is insulin-dependent. When we started dating, it was a challenge for me to learn about diabetes, but after 12 years of marriage, I now understand the auto-immune disease.

Admittedly, it took time to learn the nuances of the disease and accept that it was not in my power to cure but rather maintain. One weekend, in 2018, everything appeared to be normal, little did we know our lives would change forever.

Finding out our son also has diabetes

My husband noticed that our, then 7-year-old son, Gabriel, was constantly thirsty and always needed the bathroom. My husband told me to test Gabriel’s blood glucose. To my shock, it was sitting on 35,2 (the normal level being between 5-7). We rushed him to the doctor, only for him to confirm what we already suspected. My baby boy is a Type 1 diabetic just like his dad.

My son and I cried together as we already knew what his father goes through with his diabetes. I always knew, in the back of my mind, that this could happen when I fell pregnant, but every mother hopes for their kids to be healthy.

It’s not easier for my son

Many people assume that it’s easier for Gabriel to accept his diabetes and the responsibilities that come with it, seeing that his father has diabetes. This is not the case. A seven-year-old child doesn’t expect to have the responsibility of keeping their glucose levels ‘normal’ and they certainly don’t want to stick needles in their bodies three to four times a day.

In the beginning, and still four years down the line, Gabriel is constantly worried that his glucose will drop when he is sleeping over at a friend, or anywhere that he doesn’t have immediate access to his medication.

High fibre diet

Although we try maintain a healthy diet, we, as a family, don’t follow any strict diet rules but we do keep Gabriel on a high fibre diet and ensure he stays away from starch. Luckily that is easy as Gabriel doesn’t enjoy pasta, rice or potatoes. In contrast, Scott loves starch.

It does become a challenge to figure out what snacks are appropriate for maintaining a good glucose level; this comes with time and research. We have found that our go-to snacks for when Scott or Gabriel have low glucose levels would be a juice box and Super Cs. If their glucose level is high, they take some insulin (a correction dose) and drink a lot of water.

Thankfully, we, as a family, love the outdoors, especially hiking and are always looking for new adventures. Over December, we did a 10km hike; I was exceptionally proud of Gabriel and Scott.

Nurse, mother and wife

Honestly, it’s not easy living with two family members who have Type 1 diabetes. There are days when I want to throw myself under my blankets and scream, “Why me, why do I have to deal with this?”

However, at the end of the day I know that Scott and Gabriel didn’t ask to have diabetes and I shouldn’t complain. I have to put on my ‘mother doing her best’ crown and carry on.

The big thing that keeps me going is knowing the best support system for my husband and son, is me. For them, I’m on call 24/7, 365 days a year. No leave, no holidays. I’m a nurse, a mother and a wife.

I do have faults, just like everyone else, and I get those days where I’m impatient, due to being a full-time working mom. I also get tired and want to have someone wait on me when I’m not feeling well, or to be left alone when I’m irritated, but I take one step at a time and keep moving forward.

Advice to other mothers and wives

My advice to moms and wives living with people who have Type 1 diabetes is:

  • Don’t expect the person with diabetes to be perfect. You’ll be chasing a lost dream, there is no such thing as a perfect diabetic. Each case is unique and can influence your lives in different ways.
  • Live life and be the support pillar that they need and always know there is a support group you can reach out to.
  • It’s important to remember, diabetes can’t take a backseat just because you’re a mother. To the contrary, diabetes is a priority because you’re a mother. This is one of the reason that makes me understand the reality of being a mother and a support figure for the two people in my house afflicted by Type 1 diabetes can leave anyone feeling overwhelming some days.

I’m sure all mothers and wives would agree, even without Type 1 diabetes in the mix, it’s very hard for mothers and wives to make themselves a priority. Everybody wants a piece of your time, your energy, and your heart. However, it’s important to know and accept that your needs matter, too, Mama! Like they say, “If Mama isn’t happy, then nobody is happy!”

Strive for balance

As difficult as it may be, the key to living a happier life is balance. So, think about what you need to create more balance in your life as a mother and wife. Some things you could possible try are: 30 minutes of exercise in the morning or motivating your children to be more responsible for cleaning and making their own beds. This can be a learning opportunity to teach them responsibility so that they can learn to look after themselves, especially the responsibility of keeping tabs on their diabetes. Maybe it’s assigning each child clean-up duties after dinner every night, or signing up for a fitness class twice a week which means dad oversees dinner those nights.

Once again, to ensure the stability of your own mental health, you need to maintain a more balanced and peaceful lifestyle for your own health Your needs matter, too, Mama! Don’t forget it!

DSA – Denim For Diabetes

I’m extremely happy that I got involved with DSA Port Elizabeth as I wanted to learn more about diabetes as well as help other moms that are going through what I’m going through.

I reached out to DSA Port Elizabeth and since then I have become a board member. I’m in charge of all the fundraising for this non-profit organisation. My main project is Denim for Diabetes, where we encourage schools to educate staff members and pupils about diabetes. We also ask companies to join us in this project as well.

In 2021, with the help of my friend, Jay, we got our first company, CompRSA, to take part in Denim for Diabetes. This was an amazing leap forward, witnessing a company supporting such a good cause.

I want all kids living with diabetes to know that they aren’t alone and we are here for you. Reach out to your parents and ask for help, let them know if you need them to hold you and reassure you that you are okay. Don’t let diabetes control your life, you must control diabetes. You can do anything you set your mind too!

Western Cape Camp Diabetable

Dear campers,

We are so sorry to have had to postpone the Western Cape Camp Diabetable in April. We know how disappointed you must have been, especially those who had already booked.

Unfortunately, the Camp Director took ill and had to have a major operation and was put on six weeks sick leave. Obviously, this couldn’t have been foreseen. The good news is that we have booked a new date (16-18th September) at Soetwater in Kommetjie and are looking forward to seeing all our pro-campers and welcoming lots of new campers as well.

The new details are on the poster and we hope you are as excited as we are to see you all at camp in September.


Benefits of diabetes camps

Diabetes South Africa has been holding camps for children with diabetes for well over 40 years. These camps are designed to facilitate a camp experience in a medically safe environment, while fostering opportunities for children to develop basic diabetes self-management skills.

These type of camps also provides opportunities for children with diabetes to forge sustainable relationships, overcome feelings of isolation, and gain self-confidence and a positive attitude to living with a lifelong chronic disease which has to be managed hour by hour.

Impact

According to three years of pre and post surveys, diabetes camps positively impact a wide-range of camper outcomes, including knowledge of diabetes management, management behaviours, and emotional well-being.

Doctors have reported to us that the positive benefits of our camps for children with diabetes are seen in their young patients for many months post camp. Newly diagnosed campers appear to benefit the most from their camp experience.  The encouragement and support the children receive often leads to them giving themselves their first insulin injection on their own. Campers usually ask on leaving the camp when the next one will be.

Some our past campers have joined our DSA Camp Management Team as young adults to pay forward the positive experience they had when attending our camps as children.

The theme for this camp is The elements: earth, wind, fire, water.

To join the camp email margot@diabetessa.org.za