My name is Krystal Boyea, and I am from the tiny island of Barbados, in the Caribbean. I was diagnosed with diabetes on January 18, 1998. Growing up with it on an island that doesn’t understand and is over run with people with type 2, was difficult for me. After Dubai in 2011, I began to have a new outlook on my diabetes and it rapidly became my passion. Upon returning home, I changed my profession from Environmental Science and Geology, and I began to focus solely on diabetes. Now I am the recognized Ambassador & Spokesperson for Diabetes in the Caribbean. The past 3 years have been amazing! I have done school talks, trained diabetes nurses, motivational home visits, radio & TV programmes, spoken at the UN and TED & climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for diabetes. I am also completing my Masters of Public Health & starting as a Diabetes Coach this year.
Living in a region that boasts of some of the highest rates of amputations and other diabetes related complications is honestly not easy. I am constantly reminded of the possibility of a future without sight, the ability to walk, with kidney failure and other problems. Yes I do everything I can to make sure I take care of myself, but I can’t help but think…will that be my future as well?
Managing my diabetes is not a challenge, it is difficult, but doable…my challenge is living on an island where people don’t understand. I wear the omnipod insulin pump on my arm, back or stomach, and in the hot Caribbean, this is often visible. People stare, point and ask ridiculous questions about it. This reminds me that I am different. Also, because of the stigma associated with diabetes here, I don’t have any friends with it, so it often gets lonely.
In Barbados, the people living with type 1 diabetes are either seen in the public system at the polyclinics or in the private system with one of the 4 major endocrinologists on the island. When diagnosed they are taken to the local hospital 9Queen Elizabeth Hospital0 where they are put on Humulin or Novolin 70/30 insulin. The majority of people with diabetes use this form of NPH pre-mixed insulin. This type of insulin is on the formulary and is thus provided free by the Barbados Government. Some people use the insulin pens with rapid and long acting insulin, and even fewer people use the insulin pump. The latter resources to control blood sugar are not free and thus very few people can afford these means.
In addition to the NPH insulin, the Barbados Government provides every person with syringes and a box of blood test strips per month.
My work within the Diabetes Association of Barbados began in 2011 where I was the Camp Coordinator for the local diabetes camp, Camp Pride. Over the years my work has extended from just working with the camp. Within the Diabetes Association I do whatever I can to assist; from representing them within the media, speaking at schools and work places and working on their local projects. As their Youth Ambassador, I work closely with all youth related projects.
Within my first two years as a Young Leader, my aim was to develop a Youth Arm for diabetes. It was with this in mind that Blueprint Barbados was born. Our aim has been to support youth and to promote awareness about the diabetes epidemic in Barbados and by extension the Caribbean. It is with this in mind that we developed our first project, The Healthy Living is Campaign, where we encouraging people to stand in front of a painting with a sign that said “Healthy Living is…” and fill in the blank. The painting travelled all over the island, getting an idea of what Barbadians think Healthy Living means to them. In addition, we work closely with the Diabetes Association in promoting interest in the causes and management of diabetes. Within the next two years, I aim to develop Blueprint Barbados and expand on our local projects.