When Connor Allnutt was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, he had no idea what that meant for him.
Nearly 10 years on, the Christchurch electrician is ensuring others don’t feel left in the dark about the autoimmune disease, by getting out to Christchurch’s biggest park and showing that people with diabetes have no barriers.
Allnutt will be longboarding, scootering, running and walking for 24 hours around Hagley Park to raise funds and awareness during Diabetes Action Month.
According to the Ministry of Health, more than 250,000 people in Aotearoa live with diabetes, and of those, 5 to 10% (about 25,000) have type 1.
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Being diagnosed at 16 was a “bit of a shock”, Allnutt said.
No-one in his family had diabetes, and he didn’t know anyone with it.
“I didn’t really know anything about it.”
The diagnosis came after weeks of struggling with lethargy, weight loss and extreme thirst, he said.
“I lost heaps of weight, I was very, very skinny. I’d always be thirsty and craving sugar. I would drink 2 litres of water just at school each day.”
He also felt tired, having to take afternoon naps and feeling exhausted during sports training.
After a quick blood test revealed his blood sugar was more than three times higher than normal, he was admitted to hospital with T1 diabetes.
It was a “learning curve” for a few months, finding out what he could eat, managing injections of insulin and pricking his fingers to get blood sugar results. These days it was all second nature, but it didn’t come without its challenges, he said.
“People don’t understand how hard it can be to live with, they just think you take insulin with food and you’re good to go.”
He likened type 1 diabetes to “being on-call all the time – you don’t get a break”.
On average, he injects himself seven times a day, and finger pricks for his blood glucose levels at least six times a day.
The autoimmune disease can affect anyone, but predominantly children and teens. The pancreas, which normally produces insulin to balance blood sugars, produces little or no insulin in type 1 diabetics, requiring the hormone to be manually administered.
Balancing food, activities, work, insulin doses and blood sugars affected Allnutt mentally and physically “in so many ways”, he said.
“It can affect mood a lot. You can go all day eating the best food, going to the gym then have bad blood sugars.”
Preparation was key for him to complete 24 hours of activity around Hagley Park, while also keeping his mind active, he said.
He will have quick access to water, lollies, food, and insulin – and despite normally taking his blood sugars with a finger prick, he’ll be wearing a continuous glucose monitor that will display his blood sugars with a simple scan of his phone.
He hoped his efforts would show children with diabetes they could be “just as good as anyone who doesn’t have diabetes” at getting out there and being active, he said.
Friends and family would be “popping in” to do laps with him, and he encouraged members of the public to stop by to join him or chat about diabetes throughout the circuit around Hagley Park South and part of Hagley Park North.
Allnutt’s Givealittle page had raised almost $3000 of his $10,000 goal as of Friday morning.
Diabetes NZ chief executive Heather Verry said what Allnutt was doing was “absolutely fantastic”.
Not only was it creating awareness, it was raising funds that would stay in Christchurch to subsidise a much-needed camp in January at Living Springs for children and families with diabetes, she said.
“The camps are such a good opportunity to connect … and to know they’re not the only ones with diabetes.”
It also enabled parents to chat – “share the burden and learn from each other”.
The donation would subsidise the camp for 80 to 100 people, making it accessible for families who wouldn’t normally be able to afford the event, she said.
*Allnutt’s fundraising event is on between 12pm Saturday and 12pm Sunday. Food will be available at the start on the corner of Riccarton and Hagley avenues.
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