Chichester man speaks about diabetes

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Tucking into a bag of sweets is something most people take for granted. But for one diabetic, that simple enjoyment could have proved deadly.

Brice Jones, 37, spent most of his childhood in and out of hospital, after he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, at the tender age of eight.

For more than two decades Brice knew the day-to-day reality of living with his insulin-dependency condition, but over the past few years the father of two’s health had deteriorated to such a degree that he had been forced to use a wheelchair and receive regular dialysis treatment for his failing kidneys.

He was unable to work, and his partner Becky, 20, became his full-time carer.

Constantly tired and on the point of exhaustion, he took a leap of faith and volunteered to have a pioneering double transplant last September, a decision which would not only save his life, but cure him entirely of his diabetes.

“At first, you don’t notice the signs. It’s like when you put on a few pounds over Christmas, you don’t really realise,” he said.

“But you start feeling a bit more tired and lethargic, each day. Eventually it got to the stage that I could no longer take my children out to the park because I was too exhausted,

“I started to lose my vision. I was spending most of my time asleep. My life was wasting away before me.”

In September, Brice, who lives in Chichester, took the step to have both his kidneys and pancreas replaced during a single operation. But there was a potential tha the organs could be rejected or that the wound could become infected.

Despite this, Brice – supported by his family and friends – went ahead with the operation, at the John Radcliffe Hospital, in Oxford.

He spent a total of 13 days recovering from the transplants, before he was allowed home. With his pancreas replaced and his diabetes effectively cured, the first thing the 37-year-old did was crack open a box of sweets and tuck in.

“It was so liberating but at the same time really unusual,” admitted Brice. “I must have gorged my way through about three boxes of sweets in the first couple of days alone!

“It’s something I haven’t been able to do since I was child.”

Now Brice’s mother, Marilyn Jones, of The Meadows, Walberton, is urging others with diabetes to be aware of the dangers.

She said: “When Brice left home, I saw his health deteriorate quite rapidly.

“Doctors told Brice that if he didn’t look after himself, his body would pay the consequences when he was older.

“But the thing is, no-one tells you what ‘old’ actually means. I think Brice thought it was when he was 60, or 70 – not when he was in his 30s.

“So if I could get one message across, to other youngsters with diabetes, it would be to watch their health. Brice was very lucky. But not everyone else is.”

Brice’s health has been on the mend since the operation. He is now walking and hopes that, in the coming months, he will be able to go rambling across the South Downs.