"I was 12 years old when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I had all the usual symptoms, very thirsty and lethargic, going to the toilet a lot, and starting to lose weight.
Thankfully the symptoms were caught early so I didn’t get too sick but I was admitted to hospital and I remember the nurses telling me it wasn’t my fault and there was nothing I could have done to change it.
I made a commitment to myself then that this wasn’t going to define me, I wasn’t going to be the kid with diabetes at school, I was just going to fit in with everyone else. I have continued to carry the same attitude throughout my life that it’s my worry to look after my diabetes and I will just carry on as normal without having to concern others.
I once told a customer that I had Type 1 diabetes and his response was ‘You always seemed normal to me’. I remember being quite annoyed by this because I wondered what was so abnormal about living with diabetes.
However, there can be no doubt that diabetes has taken a lot from my family. My grandfather, John, also had type 1 diabetes and struggled terribly with it. The technology we have today was in its infancy and he only ever got to check his blood sugar at the hospital every 3 months, the rest was complete guesswork!
At the age of just 42 a nurse cut his foot while trimming his toenails. The cut never healed and soon after his toe was amputated, followed by his foot, his leg to the knee, and then his full leg. He also went blind due to bleeding in his eyes and spent the rest of his life in and out of hospital and passed away at the age of 50. Thankfully, there is much better access to eye and foot screening services today that help prevent these complications from occurring.
My dad, Leonard, was a 17-year-old at school when my grandfather lost his leg. He was an exceptionally bright student and had moved up a school year. However, due to my grandfather being unable to work and provide for the family, my dad had to leave school. He was young and ambitious and took my grandfather’s company in a new direction, using a buy/sell business model to sell fashion, which is the business model we still use today.
My father was then diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 25. Being a fighter, he didn’t let it hold him back in any way. He grew the business successfully, being loved by all the staff, and the legacy of his drive to succeed, yet his genuine care for all the people who worked for him very much still shape the business today. He led a full life despite his diabetes, but passed away very suddenly during the Christmas holidays of December 2018 at the age of 61. I learned more recently that his diabetes was probably a strong contributor to this.
This is why Xpert is supporting Diabetes UK and Diabetes Ireland for 2024. These charities do wonderful work to support people with diabetes and continue to advocate to get us access to the best treatment available.
In talking to them over the past number of months, we’ve learned that farm and construction workers, some of the key groups who use our products, are recognised as some of the groups at higher risk of developing diabetes due to their busy lives, often with long hours taking its toll on their health. So Xpert Workwear will use its reach to spread knowledge to our customers to help prevent/delay the onset of diabetes. They say that ‘prevention is better than cure’, but I can’t help thinking how much more important prevention becomes when, as yet, there is no cure."