Ivana Giovannini (18) was on a school camp in 2008 when the common symptoms of type 1 diabetes, thirst and constant urination, set in and she had to be rushed to Princess Margaret Hospital.
‘I was in the ward for a week ” it was quite bad,’ she said.
‘It was definitely a life-changing experience and something the whole family has to cope with.’
Her mother, Giuliana, said her daughter had always been a petite girl but they did not recognise the symptoms.
‘We didn’t know the symptoms ” in front of our eyes, she just changed,’ Mrs Giovannini said.
‘If we were more aware, we would have picked it up earlier.’
Mrs Giovannini said they relied heavily on information provided by the hospital on the best way to care for their daughter.
Ivana said is was a struggle to reach her optimum blood glucose levels and she had to give herself four injections a day, as well as test her blood sugar levels seven times daily.
‘The immune system attacked my pancreas so I don’t have insulin anymore ” I have to give it to myself,’ she said.
Although the disease means she has to wake up every night to test herself, and if necessary eat and drink to boost her blood sugar, Ms Giovannini said there was now a belt on the market that monitored diabetics’ heart rates while they slept.
‘I don’t let it come in the way of anything ” I still do everything, like school camps (and) I went snorkelling,’ she said.
Ms Giovannini’s personal experience has motivated her to study to become a dietician and she started at Curtin University this year,
‘I believe with healthy eating and regular exercise, all diabetics could live a happy and healthy lifestyle,’ she said.
During May, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation promotes awareness through the Jelly Baby Month campaign, and the Giovanninis have been selling jelly babies to fund research since 2009.
For more information, visit www.jdrf.org.au.