As National Diabetes Week 2020 continues we took the time to speak with Broadford Brigade Member Gaybrielle Burgess on her experience with type 2 diabetes.
Gaybrielle was first diagnosed with gestational diabetes in August 2007 when she was pregnant with her son.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can occur in the second part of pregnancy and typically goes away once the baby is born. It is diagnosed when a woman has higher than normal blood glucose levels during pregnancy.
“Being diagnosed was a huge wake up call,” Gaybriele said. “Gestational diabetes is a little different to normal diabetes because it’s not only yourself you’re taking care of, it’s your baby as well.
“I was injecting insulin four times a day whilst I was pregnant as my body wasn’t producing enough.”
Women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
“After my son was born, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes,” Gaybrielle added.
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition where your body either resists the effects of insulin — a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into your cells — or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain normal glucose levels.
“I have had diabetes for over twelve years now, and over time I have learnt to manage it.
“I actually don’t inject insulin at all anymore; instead I am on three different types of medication that I take twice a day.
“Alongside the medication I try to lead a healthy lifestyle which includes a balanced diet, staying fit and getting regular heath checks to make sure my eyesight, circulation and teeth are healthy as diabetes can affect all of these things.
“Being diagnosed with diabetes has been a game changer for me; it’s affected every part of my life including volunteering with CFA.
Gaybrielle joined Broadford brigade in 2010 and is currently a Community Education Officer, Fire Safe Kids Coordinator and a Junior Leader.
“I have learnt to control my adrenaline since being in the brigade,” Gaybrielle added. “Adrenaline can use a lot of important sugars in my body that I can’t replace.
“My diabetes is something I have to constantly be aware of. When attending incidents I have to recognise how I’m feeling and prepare beforehand.
“I wear a bracelet that explains what type of diabetes I have and what medication I’m on. I’m very open about my diabetes as I think it’s vitally important for members to be aware of my condition and spot when I may need help or a break.”
Gaybrielle was deployed to New South Wales last November to support the Black Summer fires.
“Whilst on deployment I found myself with a crew I had never met before, ” Gaybrielle said. “As we were introducing ourselves I made the team aware of my diabetes and any warning signs, and how to react.
“When I had breaks after working hard, I asked a member to come and check on me if I wasn’t back in a few minutes.
“If I work hard and sweat, I might get hungry and that means my sugar level has dropped, I may become jittery and need a couple of mouthfuls of staminade and I’m ready to go again.
“It’s important for diabetics to inform members of their condition to keep themselves safe.
“Diabetes is a condition that’s easily controlled as long as you take care of yourself and listen to your body.”
“There is nothing I can’t do as a firefighter as long as I’m prepared and communicate with my team.”