Diabetes campaign hits highway

HEALTH CHECK: Hypodrive founder Sharon Whitchurch-Bell at the free health checks September 25 at Pine Creek.
HEALTH CHECK: Hypodrive founder Sharon Whitchurch-Bell at the free health checks September 25 at Pine Creek.

A CRASH in 2006 changed Sharon Whitchurch-Bell's life.

Ms Whitchurch-Bell was only given a slim chance at rehabilitation after she was struck by a driver suffering from hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar brought on by diabetes.

Also called hypo, without treatment it can cause fitting and a loss of consciousness, especially dangerous when driving.

On her way to work on March 16, 2006, the mother of three was struck by a truck driver suffering a hypo episode.

She ended up in hospital with numerous injuries including facial and fractures, damage to her heart and liver and both her hips were broken.

"My injuries were so bad that nobody had ever survived what I somehow managed to survive." she said. "I lost my gallbladder, appendix, ruptured my spleen and had part of my bowel taken out. There wasn't any part of me that was not affected in some way."

In 2009 she had not only survived but founded Hypodrive as a way of teaching drivers about the dangers of diabetes and the warning signs of hypo.

"The reality is most diabetics don't understand the consequences of driving with diabetes," she said.

"Like the man who hit me - he didn't know that when he ignored the warning signs of his disease and got behind the wheel, he not only was placing his own life in danger, but everyone else's as well.

"This man had no idea that his diabetes could cause anyone else so much trauma."

Hypodrive has been working with the NSW Road Transport Authority to conduct roadside health checks for truck drivers.

On September 25, 240 trucks were pulled over by the RTA and were asked if they would like to take part in the free tests, had questions for the RTA or wanted a break from driving and some food. "We had 80 drivers pull over at Pine Creek south of Coffs Harbour who were all very open-armed about having their health checked on the side of the road," Ms Whitchurch-Bell said.

"We're finding up to 90% of truck drivers suffer from or are at risk of diabetes.

"A lot of it is because of the diet and the lack of exercise that comes with a life on the road."

Ms Whitchurch-Bell said 49 of the drivers checked were found to be at high risk of having diabetes or likely to get it in a few years, 24 were at an intermediate risk and only seven were at a low risk. Several drivers who chose not to stop said they had diabetes.

"We found these stats to be quite alarming and would like to urge companies to bring us in and give their drivers the education they deserve," she said.

Ms Whitchurch-Bell said Hypodrive would continue to provide health education for drivers across the country.

She thanked truck drivers who took part.

"It's a credit to you all for taking the time to keep your health in check for the safety of our Australian roads, for you are our life and blood of this country and if your health is not up to scratch, without our truck drivers this country would not be what it is today."

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Topics:  diabetes rta truck drivers

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