Mackenzie Lloyd-Hughes, living with diabetes

No one could have predicted that -Mackenzie, with her boundless energy, would be faced with the daily challenge of living with Type 1 diabetes from the tender age of 4. This is the story of a delightful child who is facing life with wisdom and courage…

Mackenzie Lloyd-Hughes radiates with personality. Our photographer is busy doing her job while her “subject” plays her role enthusiastically. The result, as you can see for yourself, is a child who appears to be the picture of health. But this has not always been the case for Mackenzie.

On February 22, 2007, Mackenzie’s parents, Isabelle Leduc and Gareth Lloyd-Hughes were nervously making their way to The Children’s. Mackenzie was very thirsty and had a constant urge to urinate. Blood tests would reveal that the family had made the right decision to seek help. Mackenzie was suffering from Type 1 diabetes and her condition was becoming serious.

In the days that followed, Mackenzie underwent a number of tests. She began to receive insulin shots, which would become part of her daily routine. To help her understand what was happening to her and to help her be brave, she was introduced to Mathilda the doll. In the expert hands of Child Life specialists, Mathilda also had to be brave and undergo a blood test along with other procedures, just like -Mackenzie – who showed exemplary courage. “The professionals at The Children’s always find a way to clearly explain what needs to be done and why. They did everything they could to reassure Mackenzie”, says Isabelle Leduc.

Having Type 1 diabetes is demanding. Injections, new eating habits and physical activity are just a few of the requirements to keep it under control. With help from the medical staff, Mackenzie’s parents learned how to check the fluctuations in her blood sugar levels and administer the insulin shots she needed. “We had a lot of questions and we had to call the Hospital often. The nurses and doctors were extremely helpful”, remembers Mackenzie’s father, Gareth. Mackenzie’s parents also learned from our specialists how to develop new eating habits and to monitor what their daughter ate. They encouraged her to be active. “I play soccer and I take jazz-ballet lessons”, Mackenzie announces proudly.

Moving toward a better quality of life

The challenge of treatment by insulin injection lies in maintaining stability between activity and food intake. Such stability is not easy to achieve with young children. To control blood sugar, it is usually necessary to administer frequent injections, sometimes as many as four or five a day, a significant challenge for small children.

The solution to improving Mackenzie’s quality of life was through a device called an insulin pump. “Mackenzie received hers on September 25, 2007. We will never forget that day”, recalls Isabelle. This date not only marked the beginning of a new adventure for Mackenzie, it was also a special day for the Pediatric Insulin Pump Clinic at The Children’s, as Mackenzie was the 100th child from the -Clinic to receive a pump!

What is an insulin pump?

An insulin pump – a small computerized instrument the size of a pager – must be worn 24 hours a day (it can be removed for short periods of time). The pump is attached to its user through a thin plastic tube, and an even thinner Teflon catheter that is inserted beneath the skin. The catheter must be replaced every two or three days instead of four or more injections per day. The pump is programmed to release very small quantities of insulin according to the requirements of the user after meals. In Mackenzie’s case, the pump has provided a great deal of freedom. In fact, when she eats, her parents simply need to calculate the amount of carbohydrates contained in the foods eaten and enter that number on the pump. The pump then calculates the quantity of insulin required so Mackenzie can use the energy supplied by the food. This way, Mackenzie is free to eat based on her appetite. As to whether she finds it hard to carry the pump at all times? “If I don’t use it, I could die”, she explains wisely. “And I hardly need any needles anymore”, she adds. That, in itself, is extraordinary for Type 1 diabetics of any age.

© 2017 The Montreal
Children’s Hospital Foundation

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