This Week CFA is celebrating National Diabetes Week by speaking with Mansfield 3rd Lieutenant Alex White.
Alex was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was seven years old. In Alex’s family, only his grandfather had type 2 diabetes, so when he was diagnosed it came as quite a shock.
“I was noticing I was drinking a lot more water, and by a lot I mean in one 24-hour period I drank over eight litres,” Alex said.
Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. People with type 1 diabetes need to do the job of the pancreas by having insulin injections or using an insulin pump.
“Being insulin dependent there is always a risk of hypoglycaemia, where you have the possibility of passing out because of low blood sugar levels.”
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However, over the past 20 years living with diabetes that has never occurred.
“For me this has never happened because I manage my diabetes well,” Alex added. “I do this by maintaining a heathy lifestyle and being aware of what my blood sugars are like.
"I used to have to inject myself with insulin up to eight times a day, but now I have an insulin pump that does the job for me.
“Having diabetes hasn’t affected my contribution to CFA or within the brigade and that’s because of clear communication.
“I think it’s vitally important for members with diabetes to inform their management team and other members in the brigade, so they can be aware and provide support If needed.”
Alex carries a pack with him on every turnout.
“The pack includes a number of different resources for an emergency,” Alex added. “This pack comes on the truck with me every single time I turn out, and all my crew members know where to find it.
“With diabetes there is a common misconception that we either have to have sugar all the time, or that we can’t have it at all. But, if you’re properly managing your diabetes, you can eat just as anyone else does.”
CFA has a formal medical process involved to ensure members are medically fit to perform roles and for deployments.
Alex first joined CFA as a Junior at Lima South Fire Brigade in 2002. He completed his junior membership and became a senior firefighter, fulfilling various roles and eventually transferring to Mansfield brigade and becoming 3rd Lieutenant.
“I’ve been on multiple deployments with CFA over the years and diabetes hasn’t affected that,” Alex said. “Of course I have to be even more cautious, but if I’m prepared I’m just as able as anyone else.
“I’d encourage anyone who's thinking of joining CFA and has diabetes to go for it!”
Please note, this story was filmed prior to COVID-19 impacts.