September 3, 2008

People Need to Be Aware of Condition That Killed Darren


A LEADING diabetes charity has backed a bereaved family's call for the Department of Health to increase awareness of a potentially fatal condition linked to the disease.

Diabetes UK Northern Ireland has supported the move after Darren McReynolds (21) was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in his home in Duncairn Parade, Belfast in May 2006. He died from Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). He was among 60,000 diabetes sufferers in Northern Ireland.

DKA is a serious complication of Type 1 Diabetes and, left untreated will kill. It is caused by extremely high levels of sugar in the blood and a severe lack of insulin. Ketones accumulate in the blood and urine causing nausea and stomach pain.

An inquest into Darren's death, held last week, revealed he died of natural causes, however his family - as reported in the Belfast Telegraph - have demanded steps are taken to vastly improve education about the condition.

The Department of Health said it would "continue to examine how further improvements can be made to ensure patients and professionals have the best possible information in relation to this condition".

However Iain Foster, the Director of Diabetes UK in Northern Ireland revealed that only 15% - 20% of people with diabetes in Northern Ireland receive any kind of patient education at the moment.

He said education about self monitoring and DKA is vital for diabetes sufferers.

"Diabetes UK is calling upon the Department of Health to increase the access to patient education for people with diabetes across Northern Ireland," he said.

"Diabetes is a serious chronic long term condition which if not carefully managed can lead to a range of life threatening complications. Diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA is a complication of diabetes which most people are less aware of compared to other possible complications.

"If undetected and untreated DKA is a fatal complication of diabetes, for this reason it is vital that people with diabetes, their families and healthcare professionals have a better understanding of DKA."

Mr Foster added: "How to self monitor your blood levels, awareness of the signs of DKA and how to treat it should be taught to everyone diagnosed with diabetes. Unfortunately only 15% - 20% of people with diabetes in Northern Ireland receive any kind of patient education at the moment."

Darren's case also highlighted problems of out of hours surgeries gaining access to patients notes.

The day before he died Darren-who was diagnosed with diabetes aged 16- had contacted the Out of Hours surgery complaining of gastric problems. However Out of Hours surgery staff are currently unable to obtain patients medical records.

They were unaware Darren had suffered two a Diabetic Ketoacidosis attacks in 2005 and was treated in Belfast hospitals.

Kathleen McReynolds (56), Darren's mother described Darren as "her rock" and helped her cope with her eldest son's death, Matthew, in 2000.

"He died from cancer, it was a terrible time, but Darren gave me strength. He was such a special boy. He didn't drink, he looked after himself, he didn't abuse his body."

In 2005 Darren was among a group of young people who travelled to south Africa to help with charity work.

"He was a brilliant young man with a bright future, and had made plans to go to America."

A Department of Health spokesperson said the department has invested considerable resources in developing services for people with Diabetes to ensure they receive a high standard of care.

"Part of these developments has included educational programmes aimed at professionals who manage patients with diabetes as well as programmes provided for patients."

Information on how to manage Diabetes can be found on or by contacting the Diabetes UK Careline on 0845 120 2960.

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