Sarah is a member of the IDF Young Leader in Diabetes network. She works for Africa Diabetes Alliance, a non-profit organization whose main focus is to empower people living with diabetes to live their lives whilst managing their condition through education, psycho-social support and advocacy. She tells us her story and how the KiDS project could have helped her if it had existed when she was a student.
Living with diabetes in Uganda
My name is Sarah Biyinzika and I am from Entebbe, Uganda. I am 27 years old and I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in secondary school at the age of 14.
Despite noticeable diabetes signs and symptoms like sudden weight loss, excess thirst, frequent urination etc., school nurses couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. They gave me painkillers and vaginal creams instead. This went on for months, until I was found unconscious in my bed. All of this could have been avoided if the nurses had knowledge about diabetes and how to help a child with diabetes-related signs.
I certainly believe I would have had a better experience if a project like KiDS had existed when I was at school. My fellow students didn’t quite understand my condition and assumed I had HIV because I had lost tremendous weight in the months prior to my diagnosis. Once they saw me injecting myself with insulin, the rumors turned to pity remarks. The school staff were no different and often confused type 1 diabetes with type 2 diabetes.
I have had a number of bad experiences during my student years, but the worst happened when I was at university. I was going in for an exam, when the invigilator noticed my glucometer. Despite my numerous explanations about why it was essential for me, he would not let me access the exam room with it. After about an hour, I started getting hypoglycemia signs. I explained to him how I was feeling and asked to be excused to treat the hypoglycaemia, which he refused once again. Next thing I remember I was at the university sick bay. I would have died if my friends hadn’t explained to the nurse that I had diabetes and needed glucose.
Children living with diabetes go through lots of hardships at school. For my Young Leaders in Diabetes project, “Disarming Diabetes Daily”, I want to address the lack of adequate information in schools that causes discrimination, stigmatization, non-appropriate food options, etc. I plan on using the KiDS information pack for my project, to promote empathy among school staff and students and create a better experience for children living with diabetes in schools.
In order to participate at school and be treated in the same way as others, children living with diabetes need people around them (like school staff and fellow students) to know more about diabetes and how to best support them. I therefore urge the Ugandan government to prioritize diabetes education in schools in order for children living with the condition to have a normal life and to reach their full potential.