Onesies get their day in the sun for diabetes

Sep 4 2015

Associate Professor Bruce King

Associate Professor Bruce King, far right, at one with the onesie crowd …

The snug but stylistically challenged “onesie” is set to make a fashion statement of a different kind on Tuesday, 8 September, by raising awareness for Type 1 Diabetes in the Hunter.

Schools, businesses and community groups are invited to hold a ‘Type Onesie Day’ to support local research with the Australian Artificial Pancreas Program (AAPP). That means wearing a onesie to school or work for a gold coin donation … or it could be one sock, one shoe or one glove.
With around 60 children and adolescents newly diagnosed each year, the Hunter has one of the highest incidence rates of Type 1 Diabetes in Australia. It is a chronic, life-threatening illness for which there is no cure – treatment involves ongoing finger pricks to test blood glucose levels and insulin injections via a needle or pump.

The Artificial Pancreas program underway at the Hunter Medical Research Institute aims to simplify diabetes management by using automated closed-loop technology to adjust insulin delivery. An algorithm developed by University of Newcastle engineers calculates dosage in real time, replicating a healthy pancreas as closely as possible.

“The algorithm has been working well in simulation and we have just begun trialing it with patients for the first time,” Associate Professor Bruce King, Paediatric Endocrinologist at John Hunter Children’s Hospital, said. “We’re starting with adults and older children whose diabetes is well controlled but we’re looking to expand the trial in coming months.

“It’s early days, obviously, and we need more funds to help refine the system. Even small donations can improve the speed and efficiency in which we get things done.”

The Type Onesie fundraising idea came from a Victorian pre-school and has also been held in the UK, but it’s a first for the Hunter. Schools that are unable to fundraise are welcome to participate, simply to improve awareness.

Kate Ryan, a member of the Hunter Kids with Type 1 Diabetes Support Group that is organising the day, said the Artificial Pancreas could prove a godsend for patients and carers. Her son Jack was diagnosed last year, aged eight, and his condition is challenging to manage.

“It has its ups and downs because Jack is very active,” Mrs Ryan said. “At the moment he is on five needles a day.”

Before being diagnosed Jack displayed classic symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes: “He was extremely thirsty, hungry, making lots of trips to the toilet and losing weight,” Mrs Ryan added. “Eventually he became quite ill.”

Funds raised from Type Onesie Day will support research and development for the AAPP. Donations can be made to or through Anne McCrea on 4921 4118. Onesie wearers are invited to share their photos on social media with #typeonesie

* HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.