Telehealth proves lifeline for Cape York mum

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Diabetes educator Veronica Mills with Hope Vale woman Esther Snyder who has recently been diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetes educator Veronica Mills with Hope Vale woman Esther Snyder who has recently been diagnosed with diabetes.

A diabetes diagnosis could not have come at a worse time for Esther Snyder.

The 55-year-old Hope Vale mum had just celebrated Christmas with her family, including her two children. But it was a nervous time for everyone in the Cape York region as COVID-19 loomed large.

The Torres Strait, Cape and NPA had remained free from the virus for almost two years since the pandemic began, but as interstate borders opened it was only a matter of time before cases arrived.

It was only a few weeks later, with local COVID cases climbing, Esther was diagnosed with late onset type 1 diabetes or Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA).

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in childhood, but LADA – also known as type 1.5 – develops more slowly. It accounts for less than 1% of diabetes diagnoses in Australia and can often be misdiagnosed as the more common type 2.

Cooktown Diabetes Educator/Clinical Nurse Consultant Veronica Mills said she held real concerns for Esther when she first met her after she was hospitalised – particularly given the COVID situation and her remote location.

But thanks to Telehealth – which Esther uses to speak to both Veronica and her doctor Luke Conway she has had crucial support literally at her fingertips.

“Esther was really high risk during COVID because she was diagnosed just before the major outbreak,” Veronica said.

“But we’ve been able to seamlessly continue that care and prevent further hospitalisation. We are able to not only plan appointments but also manage (her case) as required which is the case for type 1.”

If not for Telehealth Esther would need to travel almost 50km to see Veronica in Cooktown and 370km to Cairns to see her Endocrinologist.

Veronica said the clarity of the video was so good she could see the readings from Esther’s continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device, note any skin changes which could indicate problems and assess any issues with her insulin injection sites.

Thanks to the provider only service, they are also able to talk from the comfort of Esther’s home, rather than her having to go to her local clinic for the call.

Esther said the diagnosis had been life changing – enabling her to completely change her lifestyle and diet and isolate herself from the community while COVID continues to circulate – but Telehealth had been a lifeline.

“It’s been really scary,” she said. “I don’t go anywhere, I stay indoors.”

“With Telehealth I get to talk to the doctor who do everything for you, I get to talk to the Diabetes Educator and ask questions. I would really recommend it, especially if you don’t have a vehicle and it’s hard to get a lift.

“When you have type 1 diabetes your head can be all over the place. Veronica is the type of person who breaks it down really well for Aboriginal people. She is too deadly!”

Read more about our diabetes service and telehealth.