Parents' shock over life-changing illness

South Shropshire | News | Published:

When their 17-month-old son Riley was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes it was a moment that changed the lives of Jacqui and David Guthrie forever.

The couple were told their little boy – who had been a picture of health ever since he was born in May 2010 – would need injections before he ate anything and would have the condition for the rest of his life.

Riley, now two, can run around and play with his brother Sonny, four, like any other child.

But he is permanently linked up to an Animas Vibe machine, which he has worn around his waist since March and regulates how much insulin is in his system.

His parents have to work out how much carbohydrate is in the meals he will eat and have to measure out every meal, as well as pricking his finger at least eight times a day to check his blood sugar levels.

They feed that information into the pump which then controls his insulin supply.

Unlike the more common Type 2 diabetes, which typically develops in adults and can be related to poor diet or lack of exercise, Type 1 diabetes can occur naturally in anyone and happens when the body stops creating its own insulin.

Long term effects can include circulation problems, kidney and eyesight problems and loss of limbs – and in the worst cases it can also lead to a coma and death.

After the news was broken to them by nurses at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital on November 7 last year David, 33, and Jacqui, 31, stared at each other in shock for about half an hour without saying a word.


Riley was in hospital for a week before he could return to the family home in Rushbury, near Church Stretton. But the change in circumstances soon proved too much for Jacqui.

"He was just a baby to us at the time," she said. "He had only started walking in June of that year and hadn't really started talking yet.

"I can remember taking him to hospital and people shouting numbers and I didn't know what they meant until we got taken aside and told the news.

"By the time Riley came home the whole world had changed – everything just looked different to me.


"I remember going shopping for the first time – it took me two-and-a-half hours to go around Sainsbury's in Shrewsbury finding foods that Riley could eat.

"I broke down in the yoghurt aisle because I couldn't find one low enough in sugar for him to eat.

"I remember a member of staff tapping me on the arm and asking me why I was crying, and when I told her she said she was diabetic too and pointed out some Weightwatchers yoghurts that she had.

"It was coming up to Christmas at the time and ever since Sonny had been born we had always had chocolates on the tree, but we felt we wouldn't be able to do that any more.

"For the first three months after Riley's diagnosis I was in my darkest place I have ever been in – I never want to go back there. I really struggled to pull myself together.

"At the end of January this year I had a big wake up call – I realised it was a case of sink or swim.

"We had to live with this and it was not going away."

Jacqui has since started undertaking a series of fundraising activities and has launched her own Facebook support group which has attracted more than 170 supporters from across the UK.

She recently undertook the Walk to Cure event at Drayton Manor Park and has raised more £1,000 this year through a series of other fundraising activities.

Jacqui, who is a senior account manager for Nexus Collection in Leebotwood, had hoped to abseil down the side of Walsall Art Gallery on Saturday but had to withdraw through her own illness and to care for Riley.

She hopes to do an abseil in the next few months.

She also managed to have a night out with her friend Heidi for the first time in two years a few weeks ago, and remains in touch with the 'fantastic' and 'amazing nurses who helped care for Riley when he was first diagnosed and ever since. And while she isn't sure how she will mark the first anniversary of Riley's diagnosis she feels much stronger coping with the condition one year on.

Jacqui said: "While I cannot cure Riley myself I am doing all I can to help the people who can help him.

"And even if it doesn't help Riley it may help to make sure this does not happen to another 17-month-old baby.

To learn more about the family's fundraising effort log on to and search for Mums and Dads with Insulin Pumping Kiddies, Newbies, Oldies and Maybes.

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