When Callum Williams crashed his ute into a median barrier it was a big wake-up call.
Read this story in te reo Māori and English here. / Pānuitia tēnei i te reo Māori me te reo Pākehā ki konei.
Williams was 27 when he was diagnosed with adult onset type 1 diabetes six years ago, and had struggled to keep his glucose levels under control.
A beef farmer from Winchmore, a rural village on the northern outskirts of Ashburton, Williams focused on his work on the farm, rather than his health.
He left home for the supermarket, however, he instead woke up 45km in the opposite direction in Chertsey, with the ute he was driving a complete wreck.
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Now Williams wanted to encourage others to take care of their health, and to call on the Government to provide funding for continuous glucose monitors which he has been using since the crash.
“I didn’t want that to happen again. The thought of killing someone. I didn’t realise I was going down so low,” he said.
Williams had had several previous hypoglycaemic episodes and diabetic ketoacidosis where he would become dizzy and have slurred speech or his neighbours would find him “talking rubbish”.
When he was first diagnosed it took 18 months before he was allowed to drive again.
He continued to work on the farm and was learning to use a blood glucose meter to track his blood glucose levels but found it invasive to use and struggled to keep his levels within a normal range.
It was only after the crash, Williams’ family had a meeting and his father Steve did some research on continuous glucose monitors and offered to pay for the first month.
When looking at the pictures of the Toyota Hilux, Steve Williams cannot believe his son walked away from it alive.
It was devastating for Callum, “to find yourself in a place knowing that you’d been driving but didn’t know where, how far or how fast”.
“It was quite shattering to find him now twice on his back drenched in sweat and gasping for breath. His levels can change within a few minutes. He was either chronically low or chronically high, and he didn’t realise it,” he said.
The monitor is connected to an app which Williams, his father and a friend have access to.
It also sets off alarms on their phones giving them an advanced warning if his levels are going low.
With the help of real time data from the device to prove he had his levels under control, he was able to get his licence back within six weeks.
Steve Williams said he had seen the difference in his son particularly in how much more aware he is of how his body feels and how that relates back to his glucose levels.
“Whether you’re running at low or high, damage is being done on a day-by-day basis. I’ve spoken to people living with diabetes who don’t so much remember the insidious onset of their diabetes but the long-term impact it can have,” he said.
The monitoring system costs $370 a month.
Almost nine million people live with type 1 diabetes in the world. In New Zealand, 18,126 people living with type 1 diabetes could lose 22 healthy years of life avoidably.
Paediatric endocrinologist and Associate Professor Ben Wheeler said continuous glucose monitors were life-saving.
They were Government-funded or subsidised in other countries including Australia, but not New Zealand.
“It’s a massive inequity issue between the haves and the have-nots,” he said.
Funding the monitors would not only save people’s lives but reduce the cost of treating people for the many health complications that can happen if their diabetes is not controlled.
He said it was 100 years since the first person received an injection of insulin in New Zealand.
“We want to just see it funded and, in all fairness, every Kiwi with Type 1 diabetes who wants it should be wearing continuous glucose monitoring technology,” he said.
Pharmac chief executive Sarah Fitt said the funding agency has two continuous glucose monitors on its Options for Investment list, which means it would like to fund them when it has the budget available.
“We are also reviewing our approach to the assessment of diabetes technologies ensuring we are considering emerging evidence and applying this consistently across all currently open funding applications,” Fitt said.
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