Shaun from Rochdale is a man who likes to get moving. He walks or cycles his kids to nursery (an hour round trip), often takes himself out for a run and is an active gym member.
But this hasn’t always been the case. In fact, Shaun’s only started getting moving in 2020 and in six months he’s lost over three stone!
Shaun has had Type 1 diabetes since he was eight years old. He’s managed his blood sugar with daily insulin injections and eating sugary foods if his blood sugar gets too low – which it often did when he exercised. Not great when you’re trying to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
And that hasn’t been the only reason Shaun has struggled to get moving. Three years ago, after being knocked off his motorbike, Shaun was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), which is a complication from his diabetes. Whilst he was in hospital his doctors noticed his blood pressure was high and ran some tests. Tiredness, shortness of breath and feeling nauseous means that some days Shaun can’t move as much as he’d like to.
Over time Shaun’s kidney function has decreased. Earlier this year his doctors agreed it was time for a transplant. Instead of opting for a straight kidney donation from a live donor, Shaun and his wife Georgina decided it would be best to get a ‘simultaneous’ donation of a kidney and pancreas, meaning Shaun can get rid of his diabetes at the same time.
However, there was a problem. To be accepted onto the list for a transplant, Shaun needed a BMI of maximum 28 – and his was 35.
Without a transplant Shaun knew he couldn’t be the father he wanted to be for his two kids, who are four and one. In June his kidney function dropped further to 15% and he was looking at needing that transplant quickly, or he’d need to spend time each day on a dialysis machine.
Shaun was determined to get on the transplant list. He knew something had to change.
First off, he joined Link4Life but before he’d had his first session, lockdown started! But Shaun knew he had to do something, so he started walking.
Shaun says, “It wasn’t easy at first. I just started small, setting myself little goals as to how far I could get. Then I bought a baby carrier and from there I’ve just started walking everywhere!
“My daughter’s nursery is half an hour’s walk away, so I strap her in and off I go. It’s great for me to spend time with her and we watch the world going by together. It’s much better than being sat in the car as I can give her my attention and point things out to her as we take our walk.
“After my success with walking, I bought a bike, and a child seat of course! I’ve been on parental leave, and I’ve been furloughed now as I’m too vulnerable to go into work, so I take on most of the childcare responsibilities at home. Initially I saw this as a block to me getting up and moving, but now I’ve realised I can just take the kids along. I also hope it’s setting a good example to them and they’ll see getting active as a normal part of life.
“I’ve often found an excuse not to get moving more. I work in a busy job supervising building attendants for the University of Manchester, we have two kids who take up a lot of our time and having to manage my diabetes hasn’t helped either. Add into that the tiredness, swollen ankles and struggling to catch a breath from CKD it hasn’t been easy, but I knew I had to do it.”
His wife Georgina says, “It’s been great actually. I spend my whole working day at a desk, so having someone to make me get up and go at the weekends has been brilliant. Lockdown has been hard as we’ve not been able to socialise, but we’ve used the time to get active together as a family. Instead of going to sit and eat with friends, we’ve got the confidence to go exploring. We’ve even been swimming in waterfalls!
“It’s not just about making great family memories and teaching our kids (and ourselves) about the benefits of an active lifestyle, the change in Shaun has been phenomenal. Not only has he lost weight, he’s also become much more confident.”
Shaun continues, “It’s true. I’m much more confident and have a much more positive attitude. If I fancy doing something, like running, I now feel that I can do it. Or if I want to go an explore local places, I do. Before I didn’t like clothes shopping. But now I feel proud of the work I’ve done and the change I’m seeing in my body. I don’t feel bad going into clothes shops now and have even treated myself to a few designer pieces!
“I’ve also been able to change from having to prick my fingers to monitor my blood sugar levels, to being given a LIBRA monitor. My diabetes nurses were so impressed with my commitment to change and the improvement in my health, that they agreed to the change. It’s been brilliant having the monitor, as when I exercise I have to test myself a lot, so my fingers were black and blue from all the finger pricking! Now I just use my phone to scan my blood sugar and I can stop, rest and work on my blood sugar if I need to.
“I’ve also had some good news about my kidney function, over the summer it’s gone from 15% to 19%. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a big step for me and means I don’t feel so tired all the time and can move more. I’m not sure if it’s linked to being more active, but it’s great if it is!”
Shaun’s kidney function isn’t the only good news. His transplant consultant has been so impressed with his progress that Shaun has been approved for his simultaneous transplant and is now firmly on the waiting list!