When three-year-old Ava Beckwith collapsed on brother Jayden’s sixth birthday it changed the family’s lives forever.
Though she was seemingly healthy, a subsequent blood test revealed that the then toddler had the potentially-fatal Type 1 diabetes, despite displaying none of the typical symptoms.
Today, Ava is a happy seven-year-old, but the past three years have been a steep learning curve as she and her family learn how to manage her condition, which requires daily monitoring and insulin.
Despite the shock of Ava’s diagnosis, the family, who have moved to Houghton from Kent since she was diagnosed, have thrown themselves into raising awareness of the condition, as well as raising thousands of pounds through fundraising events.
Spurred on by seeing his sister go through uncomfortable medical procedures, Jayden, now nine, has proved to be a champion fundraiser, taking part in sponsored runs, raffles and a pyjama day, and being given a Young Person’s Outstanding Contribution Award by Diabetes UK.
Now the family are gearing up for a charity ball at Ramside Hall Hotel in Durham on June 22 to raise even more funds for people and their families who are living with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
Mum Adele Beckwith, 32, said: “I’m so extremely proud of how the kids have dealt with this. From day one Jayden has been determined to help his sister. In some ways I think we’ve found it harder to deal with than the kids. It can be a lonely condition and we set up a support group when we lived in Kent, it’s so important for people to be able to talk about it.”
Ava’s insulin is administered through a pump which she wears around her waist and it gives her the amount she needs throughout the day and night. She also has a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) just under the skin on her arm, which monitors glucose levels and alerts her and her family when her levels are high or low.
Though it means the Burnside Academy pupil no longer has to endure daily injections, the pump has a cannula which needs changing regularly.
Adele, who is married to Nick, said: “When we change the cannula it can be uncomfortable for Ava. Jayden hates seeing his sister upset, so his fundraising is his way of helping his sister and he’s been like that since day one. Even though it was his birthday on the day she collapsed on the way to school, all he cared about was his sister.
“Ava has her down days, she’s a seven-year-old girl, and she sometimes says ‘why me’, which is understandable, but the two of them have dealt with it so well.”
Trainee teaching assistant Adele says that before Ava collapsed she knew nothing about Type 1 diabetes, but the family have since become passionate about making people aware of the dangers and potentially saving lives.
“I’d heard of Type 2 diabetes as my dad has it. Diabetes can be hereditary but it’s not in Ava’s case, as Type 1 and 2 are not linked,” explained the mum-of-two.
“I never knew any of the symptoms of Type 1 which are the four Ts: tired, thirst, getting thinner and needing to go to the toilet more. Ava didn’t display any of those as she was pre-diabetes, but it’s so important for people to know them. Children can die if they’re not diagnosed early enough. “We’ve always been very open as a family and we’ve made it clear to the children why Ava needs the insulin.
“All kinds of things can affect Ava’s condition: the weather, stress, whether she’s ill. She’s never been really poorly yet, so we’ll have to deal with that when it happens. Also, when she gets her periods and has the hormones of puberty and later when she wants to go out drinking with her friends, these are all things that will affect her condition. It’s not as simple as having an injection and there you go. It’s so important to educate people about what it means to live with diabetes.”
Adele has teamed up with her sister Heather Brymer, who also lives in Houghton, for The Blue Ribbon Ball at Ramside.
It will feature a drinks reception, three-course meal, entertainment, raffle and disco.
•Tickets for The Blue Ribbon Ball at Ramside Hall Hotel on June 22 are £60 for adults and £45 for children. They are available from email@example.com or Tel. 07740 379526 or 07511 946636.
•For more about the symptoms of diabetes, living with the condition and how you can prevent Type 2 visit www.diabetes.org.uk or Tel. 0345 123 2399