Billie Brown, 12, represented New Zealand at the first World Indigenous Games in Brazil in 2015. She was the youngest of 2,000 participants and is writing a book about her experiences. She hopes to inspire other young people with diabetes to achieve their dreams, as she explains in her own words.
I BECAME A MEMBER of the unique and special type 1 diabetes whānau when I was six years old. I cried the first couple of times I needed injections in my puku when I became hospitalised after my initial diagnosis. But by day three I was running around the ward calling the other children to my bedside to watch me getting medicated. It became a fun thing and I loved having my parents and family so close all the time.
Basically not much has changed in my life since then, except testing and medicating several times a day. My dad used to get up twice every night for the first few years to make sure my [blood sugar] levels were kept stable. And immediately after I left hospital he threw in his teaching job to take up work in my primary school classes and follow me through from years two to six. I was in good hands! It was cool having Dad around, he created exciting events in school for myself and my classmates with kites, Māori games and other activities at camps and during lunchtimes. I started high school in year seven and have managed to keep up good numbers independently and be involved in a lot of sports and academic opportunities.
For fun my big sister, Yves, and I came up with the Māori word ngaretahu, an abbreviation of Māori words about diabetes, which translates to type 1 diabetes. I think a distinctive name for type 1 diabetes might be useful so that the ongoing confusion with type-2 diabetes for some people will cease.
I love sports and keeping active. I also like eating veges that dad grows such as cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, peas and corn. Dad says I should do what I can to help other ngaretahu children, their parents and people generally become more informed and understanding about type 1 diabetes.
I think sports diversity is a good way to build up your physicality and life skills and to help in the ongoing ngaretahu pathway that we all tread, including our parents and extended whānau.