Abu Dhabi: It is said that a problem shared is a problem halved, and this is certainly true of Diabetes Heroes, a support group run by the Imperial College London Diabetes Center (ICLDC) Abu Dhabi.
Initially created in 2017, the group, which has more than 200 members, aims to educate people newly diagnosed with diabetes while providing support to diabetics and their families to share their concerns and learn from the rest.
“We felt like the name was a good representation of someone living with diabetes; we felt like they are heroes and going through life with the challenge of diabetes, and we just wanted them to feel validated, appreciated and supported,” said Dr. Amani Taha Osman, consultant pediatric diabetologist at ICLDC, ahead of World Diabetes Day on 14 November.
Dr. Amani said the support group is an extension of the care provided to patients during ICLDC clinic visits. In addition to patients, the support group includes health professionals such as educators and dieticians, allowing patients to manage their condition effectively.
People newly diagnosed with diabetes are introduced to the Diabetes Heroes WhatsApp group, creating a forum for immediate support. The WhatsApp group also serves as a 24-hour helpline to resolve issues related to the use of devices such as continuous glucose monitors and to address urgent concerns.
“Many times, I wake up in the morning and check the WhatsApp group, only to find out that there was a problem in the middle of the night. The problem would have been resolved by one of the experienced mothers who went through something similar, who provided advice on what to do or directed the person who asked the question to the appropriate resources for help,” Dr. Amani said.
Activities outside the clinic
“We educate patients and give them the right information about how to take care of their diabetes. Whenever we have a newly diagnosed diabetic who is having trouble accepting their diagnosis, we introduce them to both the support group and the WhatsApp group so that they feel like there is a community behind them that can support them. This is the kind of atmosphere we want. It is to help empower the person who has to live with diabetes,” the doctor added.
For its child members, the support group specifically organizes trips and activities to create an encouraging environment and strengthen friendships. The group also works to ensure that patients do not feel alone when dealing with their diabetes. This helps reduce social stigma, especially among teenagers.
Additionally, the support group provides mentoring from experienced patients, which helps guide newly diagnosed people through the learning curve and increases their confidence.
One of the key aspects of the support group is that it brings together patients with diabetes in an environment where they can bond, share experiences and feel a sense of camaraderie. This is especially beneficial for those living in remote areas.
Dr. Amani said: “I believe in the importance of this platform for newly diagnosed patients. Seeing how much support they need, particularly with type 1 diabetes, and considering how advanced technology is today with its steep learning curves, it’s easy for them to feel overwhelmed as they learn to give injections and navigate other challenges. associates. By connecting them with experienced patients who have diabetes, they can be guided through this stage until they gain more confidence.”
Need for tranquility
The support group has had a positive impact on many. Miran Sami Maabreh, whose young son, Hashem Al Refai, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, is one example. Miran says the group provided a lot of relief, support and guidance during difficult times.
“My son Hashem was only two years old when he was diagnosed. We were shocked and it was a very difficult time, especially because we were alone here, far from our family in our home country. When we went to the center, I was eager to know if there was another case like Hashem’s that could help me. He also needed reassurance to help me manage my son’s condition, which requires multiple injections and careful dietary management throughout the day. Dr. Amani quickly found a case like ours and invited the family to share their experience and learning with us. This was a great relief and really strengthened us to control Hashem’s diabetes,” Maabreh said.
Dr. Amani highlighted the nature of the support group, where everyone cares for each other like a close-knit family. The focus is on portraying diabetes not as a disease but as a manageable condition. Overall, the support group has been successful in providing a holistic approach to diabetes care, allowing patients to accept their condition and live a full life.
“It is truly a safe space where people feel welcome. In fact, every time someone new joins us, we receive the opportunity to have an immeasurable beneficial impact on another life,” the doctor said.