Sports stars talk to young patients at Southmead Hospital about taking diabetes in their stride

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

An athlete with her sights on Olympic gold and an international cyclist who both have diabetes are hoping to inspire teenagers with the condition at Southmead Hospital.

Melanie Stephenson, 22, is one of Wales’ fastest women and was also one of the first athletes in the UK to be fitted with a special insulin pump.

She will be joined by international road racer cyclist Ian Rees to talk to teenagers with diabetes at Southmead Hospital about how having the condition has not held them back from achieving their goals.

Mr Rees, 39, from Backwell, near Bristol, who has been diabetic for over ten years and cycles at an elite level around the world, will talk about how cycling has helped improve his health.

He said: “I hope that I can prove to young people with diabetes that you can live life to the full if you control and manage your condition in the right way.

"Being diagnosed with any health condition is tough and making the transition into adulthood whilst learning to be more responsible for your diabetes is an important step.

"This event at Southmead Hospital is a great way for people with diabetes, young and old, to learn from each other." 

Miss Stephenson is a 200metre medallist who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 13.

Her insulin pump has given her greater freedom allowing her to train six days a week as well as complete a degree in fashion design.

By 19 she was made captain of the Wales Under 20s athletics team and was ranked third in the UK. She now has her sights set on the 2012 Olympics.

The diabetes adult and paediatric teams at North Bristol NHS Trust are hosting the event for teenage diabetes patients on January 26 at the BAWA Club near Southmead Hospital.

At the age of around 16 to 17 diabetes patients move from being seen in paediatric clinics to adult clinics and the team at Southmead Hospital want to make this transition smoother.

The team hold an open evening every year for young people where former and older patients can share their experiences with teenagers making the transition to adult services for the first time.

Debbie Stern, diabetes specialist at Southmead Hospital, said: “Understanding the experiences of other people with diabetes is important for teenagers who are learning to be more responsible for managing their own condition.

“Adolescence is a challenging part of any teenager’s life which is why the diabetes team want to ensure the transition is a smooth journey from paediatric to adult services.

“Melanie and Ian are ideal role models to show that diabetes is not a condition that should hold anyone back and we hope that everyone will be inspired by their stories.”