“/>Wendy Smith with working dog Echo
East Belfast mother Wendy Smith has been struggling to manage her type 1 diabetes after losing her hypo awareness after surgery when she was stuck with coronavirus in October.
Within a few weeks, she had developed a nasty infection at the site of her insulin pump, which required ten days of intravenous antibiotics and three weeks of antibiotic treatment.
“I think because Covid hammered my immune system, it took me a lot longer to get over such an infection. I don’t think it would have had that much impact in normal times, ”said Wendy.
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She said the unconditional love of her “working dog” Echo from Hypo Hounds along with an online peer support group run by Diabetes UK (NI) had helped her through many dark days – including times when the Covid lockdown took a toll challenged on their sanity.
“I got a lot of support from my family, but it wasn’t until I was talking to other people with diabetes and someone else who also had Covid that I realized I was mentally exhausted,” said the mother of two, originally from Coleraine, said.
“I started to lose hypo-consciousness after surgery, but after taking hypo while driving my car about five years ago, I knew I needed a working dog from the Hypo Hounds Charity to treat my diabetes To get a grip.
“I had up to 15 Hypos a week, some of them at night. I have no doubt that Echo has saved my life countless times. She is trained to alert me when my blood sugar is too low or too high.
“She’s trained to put her paw on my knee and bark to alert me, or if I’m in bed and Colin (Wendy’s husband) is down she’ll pester him so he’ll know he’s after me must see. “
Most people with type 1 diabetes are aware when they have hypo so they can take steps to bring their blood sugar levels back to healthy levels.
Wendy added; “Echo takes the burden off the rest of the family as they trust her to look after me and she is always great company but I appreciated her even more when I was recovering from Covid. Echo and Diabetes UK NI online peer support group definitely helped me deal with this.
“This was the first time I got involved in a peer support group with other people with type 1 diabetes. I liked how the groups for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are divided. I think this is a great idea because there is so much misunderstanding about type 1 diabetes. “
Anyone wishing to register for a diabetes peer support group can send an email to email@example.com