Emma's sweet ride for diabetes

Emma's sweet ride for diabetes


Life & Style
Longtime diabetic Emma Hegarty getting ready for a training ride at Colanya, Longreach with her father Pat Hegarty. The pair are taking part in the Dirt N Dust triathlon at Julia Creek in April to raise money and awareness of diabetes.

Longtime diabetic Emma Hegarty getting ready for a training ride at Colanya, Longreach with her father Pat Hegarty. The pair are taking part in the Dirt N Dust triathlon at Julia Creek in April to raise money and awareness of diabetes.

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FOR 20 years Emma Hegarty has been living with type 1 diabetes, and she's about to celebrate that with one of the toughest challenges the bush can throw up.

Aa

FOR 20 years Emma Hegarty has been living with type 1 diabetes, and she's about to celebrate that with one of the toughest challenges the bush can throw up.

Far from being a victim of her condition, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries beef extension officer from Cloncurry is not just owning it - she's a role model for others in her situation.

It was the summer of 1995, a typical hot afternoon in western Queensland, when Emma's symptoms came to a head at a neighbour's birthday party when everyone was playing in the pool.

"Mum dragged me out of the water and rushed me home to pack what we needed to go to hospital in Longreach 140 kilometres away," Emma said.

"We couldn't contact Dad on the two-way radio so my brother James, who was 10 at the time, headed out on his Honda 80 to search for him.

"Once we were all together we headed in to Longreach where I spent the next week on a drip, getting my sugar levels under control.

"Mum and I learnt how to use insulin injections and manage my diet. Back then we had to use syringes and draw up insulin from large vials.

"I remember Dad driving all the way in to town early one morning to make sure he was there when I gave myself my first injection once I had been taken off the drip."

Twenty years later, Pat and Sue Hegarty are still there by her side, her greatest supporters as she throws herself into all that life in the bush has to offer.

When Emma decided 12 months ago to raise the profile of the work of Diabetes Queensland and compete in Julia Creek's Dirt 'n' Dust triathlon, one of the first people to put up his hand to ride alongside her was Pat.

Sixty years young, Pat has been putting in the hours both on the stationary bike as Australia has thrashed its way through World Cup cricket honours, and out on the stony tracks around Colanya.

Emma returned home for a visit recently and was amused to see her father getting both his pushbike and motorbike ready for the morning.

"Never in my life did I think I would see my Dad going for a pushbike ride early in the morning before going mustering. Normally we would be getting sheep at sunrise, but this time we were just getting back from a training ride.

"Straight after, we were on the motorbikes mustering the sheep in. I am so proud of Dad and impressed with his commitment and dedication.

"He set a cracking pace and is doing us proud. It means a lot to have him ride with me."

From the start of her diabetes journey Emma has taken control and given herself all bar two of her injections and, with the support of her parents, has never let diabetes get in the way of achieving.

After a degree in livestock science at the University of New England, Emma landed a sales and consulting job with Colemans Stock Feeds at Charters Towers, learning about the nutritional requirements of north Queensland cattle.

She then undertook a 10-month graduate program with Meat and Livestock Australia and Teys Bros at Rockhampton's Lakes Creek abattoir, and now coaches the Australian national meat judging team and travels yearly to 10 states in the central US.

Changing in her teens to using pen needles rather than syringes for injections was a great convenience, and last year she and partner Mitch Black decided to upgrade further to an insulin pump.

"It's connected to me at all times and delivers ongoing insulin, as well as doses when I eat. It provides much more flexibility and better control than injections ever could.

"It's as close to a fake pancreas as we can get.

"These developments are thanks to the amazing work going on at Diabetes Australia and Diabetes Queensland, which is why I am so keen to give back to them."

Emma said people mostly raised money to find a cure, which was important, but she was keen to see money go towards teaching people how to live with diabetes as well.

On April 18 she and Pat, plus her partner Mitch and friend Jess Collyer, will be swimming 800m, cycling 25km and running 5km in the Dirt N Dust triathlon at Julia Creek to raise awareness and money. So far she has spat out flies, had grasshoppers thwacking her in the face, and been training at the hottest time of the year to prepare.

A dash up the Porcupine Gorge challenge at Hughenden was recently held as a test, with Emma making a couple of stops along the way to check her sugar levels.

"If it had fallen out of the safe range, I would have had a lot of trouble getting through the race."

Although she hasn't yet raced, Emma is already describing the event as a life-changing experience.

"Prior to this challenge I never felt comfortable talking about my diabetes but by setting this personal challenge I have realised how much I can help others and raise awareness." So far her team has raised all but $2260 of an $8000 target.

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