Through his medical journey Brodie Wieland has stayed active and returning to basketball last week.
Through his medical journey Brodie Wieland has stayed active and returning to basketball last week. Emily Bradfield

What life is like for a type one diabetic

WHEN it comes to most things including his health, Brodie Wieland is usually a closed book.

A lot of people who know him might not know he has lived with type one diabetes for 30 years.

Mr Wieland says this is not a pity party but he is sharing his story in the hope it will help others and bring about much-needed awareness of type one diabetes, an auto-immune disease affecting about 144,800 people in Australia who rely on insulin injections.

"People would make you feel different, so the more awareness that is out there to make you realise you're still a human being, you've just got some extra things to do," he said.

Mr Wieland's life was turned upside down at just four years of age when he was diagnosed with type one diabetes while on holidays with his grandparents.

From that moment, his life became regimental - blood sugar tests three to six times a day, sometimes more, and insulin injections up to four times a day by the time he turned 13.

Sometimes sugar levels were hard to control and he would drop into a 'hypo' (hypoglycemia - when blood sugar level drops dangerously low) that could sometimes induce seizures.

Mr Wieland said his diagnosis was not just tough for him but the whole family as they lived through the highs and lows with him.

"It's not just hard on the diabetic it's hard on the whole family, even the extended family," he said.

Growing up was tough. Normal kids' stuff like sleepovers and school camps were out of the question, and for the most part he kept his diabetes to himself.

Mr Wieland can remember waiting until his classroom was empty so no one would see him inject insulin at lunchtime.

"They say you can live a normal life as a diabetic but no, it's not normal," he said.

Two years ago, the big one hit and Mr Wieland found out he had reached kidney failure.

"The first day I saw the doctor I was straight on the list for a transplant of kidney and pancreas," he said.

Next came two years of monthly visits to a specialist in Toowoomba and 18 months of at home dialysis four times a day to manually flush his kidneys.

"It was one of the hardest things in my life for sure," Mr Wieland said.

On December 13 last year, he received a life-changing call, the transplant call-up.

"I woke up that night with a really bad headache, I looked at the clock, 2am. I had some Panadol and laid on the couch with an ice pack and I said to myself 'I hope my phone doesn't ring right now' and as soon as I said that it rang," he said.

The family was ready and packed and on a plane to Sydney at 10am.

By one o'clock the following morning, Mr Wieland was out of six hours of surgery with a new kidney and pancreas.

Mr Wieland and his family have come to appreciate the contribution of organ donors on a personal level.

"Very appreciative of organ donors, it's the most wonderful thing people could do," his mother Susy Wieland said.

"They're no good to you if you're dead so if you can help someone else out why not?" Mr Wieland said.

Recovery has been tough and is still ongoing, as Mr Wieland suffered through setbacks that sent him to hospital in Dalby, Toowoomba then to Brisbane for bowel surgery. He lost 14kg and his blood sugar started to go high and doctors feared his body was rejecting his new organs, so he was sent back to Sydney.

"Luckily it wasn't ... they said it's just a bit upset from everything I'd gone through," he said.

Now, after the transplant, the kidney is doing its job and Mr Wieland is no longer diabetic with a functioning pancreas.

Mr Wieland said he was grateful for how understanding and supportive his bosses Nathan and Stacy Koehler at Goldings Air Conditioning were, allowing him to go home to complete his dialysis twice a day on work time and sticking by him through all the surgeries.

He is also appreciative of his family who have gone through everything right by his side, his dad Tony, mum Susy, sister Carney and his partner Jasmine Gash.

Mr Wieland is advocating for more diabetes awareness and greater access to subsidised medication and products.

"I think medications and products like insulin pumps and glucose monitors should be available for every diabetic at the cheaper rate, it's to keep you alive. It's a disease that can be controlled but if everything was more reasonably priced and available everyone would be able to control it in the best way possible."

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