Death of woman highlights issues facing adolescents in managing type 1 diabetes

Jack Woodfield
Mon, 03 Sep 2018
Death of woman highlights issues facing adolescents in managing type 1 diabetes
The death of a woman with type 1 diabetes who struggled to take insulin has highlighted the problems adolescents can face with diabetes management.

Natasha Horne was 20 when she died. She had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in October last year and was scared it would prevent her living what she considered a normal life. This is a great shame because people with type 1 diabetes have every opportunity to live normal, healthy and exciting lives.

She was reluctant to inject insulin due to a fear of needles, and had been prescribed a special cannula which meant she didn't have to insert needles directly into her skin. Unfortunately, this did not help her enough.

Natasha started losing weight, around half her body weight in two to three months. Her parents, Jackie and Stephen said she "didn't understand the severity of the consequences" of not injecting insulin.

Earlier this year, Natasha's body entered diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA. DKA is a life-threatening complication where the body is deprived of insulin. She experienced DKA three times, the most recent occurring in June.

"She said she was going to change. But she was 20 - she'd passed the legal age, so it was all on her. We didn't get the phone calls or letters to say she was missing medical appointments," said Jackie.

If someone is harming themselves through not taking injections, then they need psychological help. This can be present a grey area as to how much family and care services can intervene and when they can. If someone is open to being helped, there is hope. If someone struggles to accept help, like Natasha was, this makes care more difficult.

Natasha died on Saturday 22 August after a suspected diabetic coma. Some of her organs are being donated for diabetes research.

Having diabetes as a teenager can be hugely impactful. Adolescents can often struggle to embrace the day-to-day management, and parents can find this hard too. Jackie has since called for greater resources to help parents with their child's diagnosis.

"More help for parents would be good. When a young person is diagnosed, most of the education goes to that person - especially with someone like Tasha because she wasn't a kid. It's only because of my job I suspected - that first attack could have been her last.

"It's all about acceptance and education. You can get it any time in life and it doesn't have to be hereditary. Even adults are approaching me saying 'I didn't know you could die from diabetes.'"

Speaking with your GP about your diabetes is not always easy as a teenager, but it is greatly beneficial to help with any problems you may be having. Alternatively, open up to friends and family or other people with diabetes as this can help to take away some of the strain you may be feeling.

People with diabetes are entitled to psychological help on NHS which can be very beneficial if there is a fear of needles or in accepting a diagnosis of diabetes. If you are struggling with diabetes, there is hope and the NHS can support you.
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