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Volunteers' Week 2023 - Brian's story

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Brian has lived with type 1 diabetes for over 65 years. He became a volunteer after getting help at a local support group.

"I feel the impact as a volunteer every time I help someone with diabetes, their families and carers." 

Brian was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1957, when he was 3 years old. He’d been falling asleep a lot for weeks, and his GP thought he had ‘Asian Flu’ – the GP had never diagnosed anyone with diabetes before. One day Brian’s mother couldn’t wake him up, so she called an ambulance, and Brian was taken to Newcastle General Hospital, where he was in a coma for three months. 

Brian’s parents were shown how to give him injections using “glass syringes and needles like spears.” His mum was told that as long as she did everything the healthcare professionals showed her, Brian would live until he was 25. If not, he could lose his sight, lose a lower limb, and die at an even earlier age. Brian says “My mum was determined this would not happen.” Thankfully it didn’t happen, and Brian has received the Alan Nabarro medal for living with diabetes for 50 years, and the Robert Lawrence medal for living with diabetes for 60 years.

Joining a local support group

One time when Brian went to his annual diabetes check-up appointment, he met a lady who was the secretary of the Diabetes UK local support group in Gateshead. She persuaded Brian to go along to one of their meetings. Healthcare professionals and nutritionists often attended those meetings to give presentations on living with diabetes, and Brian says “it benefitted the people who were coming along so I decided to get involved.” 

Brian now has a few different voluntary roles with Diabetes UK. He joined the Gateshead local group’s committee in 2012, and later became their secretary. For this role, he arranges the group meetings and invites guest speakers to attend. He takes information about Diabetes UK and living well with diabetes to various events as an Events Volunteer. And as a Speaker Volunteer he gives talks about type 2 diabetes to local community groups.  

Enjoying being a volunteer

The thing Brian enjoys the most about being a volunteer is “the contact I have with people who come to our meetings, volunteers in my group, other groups and colleagues at Diabetes UK. I feel the impact as a volunteer every time I help someone with diabetes, their families and carers.”  

To anyone thinking of volunteering with Diabetes UK, Brian says he’d encourage them to do so, because “people need the opportunity to talk to others about their experiences with other like-minded people, to get their questions answered and to share information.” 

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