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Bexley's youngest female mayor takes charity initiative

PUBLISHED: 06:00 30 September 2013

Cllr Sharon Massey ,Mayor of Bexley

Cllr Sharon Massey ,Mayor of Bexley

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When Sharon Massey became Bexley's youngest female mayor in May (and second youngest ever) she saw this as a great opportunity to step up her charity fundraising drive - something she has devoted most of her life to.

Cllr Sharon Massey ,Mayor of BexleyCllr Sharon Massey ,Mayor of Bexley

But she didn’t just chose any two charities to support. One of them has a deeply personal meaning, and the other one is something which affects lots of people in the borough - they are the Diabetic Paediatrics Unit at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup and Carers’ Support Bexley.

Almost six years ago, Sharon’s daughter Tori went for a routine doctor’s appointment. But he recommended she be taken immediately to Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup and the then-eight-year-old collapsed in the waiting room.

It turned out she has type 1 diabetes and Sharon describes the diagnoses as the “scariest experience of my life”.

“I wouldn’t say she was minutes from death but she was certainly very ill. She collapsed with diabetic ketocidosis – a dangerous complication of diabetes that is caused by a lack of insulin.

Charities factbox

Type 1 diabetes is most common in children and has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle – it is thought to be caused by a genetic predisposition.

Symptoms include losing weight, above average thirst and losing weight.

Around 26,000 people in the UK have type 1 diabetes.

Estimates suggest unpaid carers save the British economy around £119billion a year.

There are almost seven million carers in the UK.

The number of people over 85 in the UK, the age group most likely to need care, is expected to increase by over 50 per cent to 1.9 million over the next decade.

“She had blurred vision, lost a lot of weight and had an erratic heart rate.”

The Massey family is still coming to terms with how having a diabetic in the family changes all their lives, which is why she decided to support the Diabetes Paediatric Unit at Queen Mary’s.

Type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with bad diet or lifestyle, and the patient is generally genetically pre-disposed to contracting the condition.

Sharon, 48, said: “The aim is to raise the profile of the unit while raising vital funds. This goes towards things like “diabetes holidays” which patients go on with their families.

“It’s a rare condition so most youngsters don’t know anyone else who has it – this gives them a chance to interact with people they share the condition with, they can exchange tips and ideas on coping with it.

“They also need continuous glucose monitoring machines to check up on the kids’ blood sugar levels.”

While type 1 diabetes is a cause close to the mayor’s heart, she chose to back Bexley Carers’ Support simply because of the great work they do – and the number of people in the borough that are affected.

She claims around 23,000 people in Bexley – one in 10 of the population – are carers, and nationwide this saves the NHS £119billion each year by people taking on this thankless task for free.

And carers need support as much as the people they are caring for, says Sharon.

“It’s an exhausting job caring for a family member or friend full-time. I really believe everyone knows someone who’s a carer because there are so many of them around.

“For every £20 raised carers get an hour’s worth of respite. Of this money £8 goes straight to their pocket so they can give themselves a little treat, be it going for coffee with a friend or another social activity.

“Spending time with the carers support team, it’s clear they do amazing work and I’m truly humbled to be involved with them.”

When her one-year term as mayor comes to an end next spring, she intends to carry on supporting both charities in the important work they do.

Sharon added: “Almost every family has to care for someone at some point in their lives and we need to support and help some of the most vulnerable people in our borough. We’ll all get to that stage one day.

“And diabetes is something which will be in my life for the rest of my days.”

For more information on Carers’ Support Bexley visit carerssupport.org.

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