Ellie-May Maguire is a paramedic and type 1 diabetes (T1D) advocate who has spent the last 10 years supporting the T1D community and working to improve their lives.
Right from the very beginning of her T1D journey, Ellie has told herself she’ll never let diabetes control her or stop her from achieving her dreams – and she’s certainly gone on to achieve great things!
Here, we spoke with her about:
- What 2020 has been like for her,
- Her life in Melbourne during COVID-19,
- Managing her diabetes as a paramedic; and,
- What she’s most excited about for the future of T1D research
Wow, where to begin!? This year has been full of highs and lows for Australians, but we can see you’ve achieved some awesome things in 2020 – could you tell us a bit more about them?
2020 has been a year that will never be forgotten, unfortunately for mostly negative reasons, but for me 2020 has been quite an exciting year outside of the lockdowns and restrictions.
This year on Australia Day I was lucky enough to receive the Mornington Peninsula Young Citizen of the Year Award for the advocacy work I do for JDRF and raising money and awareness for the T1D community. I’ve also bought and moved into my first house with my partner Trevor, which we have made our own over lockdown with some renovations and we have just added a new family member to our tribe with our little puppy Tate arriving last month.
You live in Victoria, which we all know was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. How did you manage your well-being during this time, and do you have any tips for others living with T1D during this period of uncertainty?
The pandemic has been a crazy rollercoaster ride for most Australians, but for us Victorians, it seems to be a rollercoaster that doesn’t stop. I have been lucky enough to be able to continue working throughout the pandemic, in an essential service and on the front line of the pandemic as a paramedic. As a paramedic it is important to look after your wellbeing at the best of times, but this year it has become even more important.
My wellbeing ritual generally consists of doing something outside. My favourite thing to do is go for a paddle on my stand-up paddle board in summer and take in the serenity of nothing but water around me. Unfortunately, with the lockdowns and freezing winter I have taken up gardening and make sure I walk the dogs every day to ensure I get some vitamin D. I think my best tip would be to remember that this isn’t forever, and that normal life will return, and we will come out of this pandemic more resilient and have a greater appreciation for the smaller things in life. Stay positive, keep in touch with loved ones and remember it’s okay to have a bad day.
It was also your 10-year diaversary back in August, which you described as a bittersweet occasion. How do you feel reflecting on your life with T1D?
Firstly, 10 years has flown by. I remember the day I was diagnosed like it was yesterday. I remember what I was wearing to the hospital, I remember the food I ate, and the TV shows I watched whilst in hospital. To me it’s hard to believe that it’s already been 10 years. It was a bittersweet moment on my 10-year diaversary because I was so proud of how much I have achieved in that timeframe but also disappointed that there still isn’t a cure for this growing disease.
I have come to realise that being a T1D has bought me so many opportunities that I would have never encountered if I didn’t have T1D. I’ve made life-long friends and been on adventures. I’ve won awards and met some amazing, inspirational people who all live with T1D.
Working as a paramedic, how do you manage such a mentally and physically demanding job alongside your T1D?
Shift work in and of itself for any ordinary person is mentally, physically and socially demanding. It’s also a job that I love! Initially my first couple of months as a paramedic I had to not only learn about the demands of the job, but I had to learn how to manage my T1D as a paramedic too.
I quickly decided that a continuous glucose monitor was going to come in very handy, and I now have the Medtronic Guardian Connect CGM and I LOVE IT! The Guardian Connect has helped me control my T1D better than ever, knowing when I am about to have a hypo and preventing it, getting alerts on my phone and watch without a finger prick is a dream come true.
It is also super important to have down time with such a demanding career, so I always make sure on my days off that I have some “ME” time where all I need to worry about is me.
What developments from T1D research have impacted your life the most over the last 10 years? What are you most looking forward to in the future?
Over the past 10 years, T1D technology has improved significantly. From finger pricks and insulin injections daily being the only option in managing T1D, we now have an array of options. The CGM technology has been the best change in my life as I am able to manage my diabetes and determine what’s next with the 24-hour monitoring and trends available. I am looking forward to seeing the research happening now create bigger and better things, maybe a prevention, maybe a cure or maybe even both.