Benjamin Hollis

Bermuda

Hello everyone, my name is Ben, I’m 27 years old and I come from the Arctic paradise of Bermuda. I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1998 when I was eleven years old, just a few weeks before I finished primary school. From the outset I was determined to take responsibility for the management of my diabetes, and while there has certainly been a learning curve (which continues to this day), whatever apprehensions I initially had soon gave way to curiosity. Living with diabetes has steered my scholastic interests towards medical science, and I have earned two Bachelor’s degrees in Physiology and Evolutionary Biology. Presently I have a job at an insurance company in Bermuda, but in October I will begin my studies towards an MSc in Epidemiology at Imperial College in London, a decision aided in no small part by my time spent at the YLD Conference in Melbourne.

In the past, this disease was known as ‘insulin-dependent’ diabetes, and I think the ‘dependence’ part has presented the greatest challenge for me in living with diabetes. I’m an avid sailor and spend a lot of time on the ocean, and have completed a number of trans-Atlantic crossings. It’s at these times, thousands of miles from any pharmacies or a hospital that diabetes becomes most burdensome, because no matter how prepared I am it’s hard to keep worst-case scenarios from playing out in my mind. It’s tremendously important to me to never let this disease prevent me from doing anything, but you can’t get around the fact that there are added risks involved because of diabetes that must be taken into account. However, by being aware of those risks and taking necessary precautions, I firmly believe that diabetes does not have to be a limitation to anything you want to achieve in life.

Bermuda has an insurance-based healthcare system, and to my knowledge there are no government-subsidized programs that provide patients with any free diabetes supplies. Fortunately, approximately 95% of Bermudians have health insurance, so access to insulin and supplies is not a major issue. In addition, a large proportion of type ones are on insulin pumps, and there is a tremendous team of clinicians and educators dedicated to helping people manage their diabetes. Yet in spite of this plethora of readily-available resources, an estimated two-thirds of cases remain undiagnosed, our rate of amputations due to diabetes-related complications ranks among the highest in the world, while diabetes remains one of the leading causes of death on the island. This is a major issue that needs to be addressed, and I look forward to playing my part by putting to use my YLD training and through my continued studies.

The Bermuda Diabetes Association does a fantastic job of raising awareness and providing services to people living with diabetes on the island, and I’m extremely proud to represent them internationally as a Young Leader in Diabetes. In the past I have worked with them as a volunteer at fundraisers, as a mentor for the “Sailing on Insulin” program and in serving as a member of their Medical/Education Committee. Going forward, I look forward to collaborating with them as I implement my YLD project, and to offering my continued support in educating Bermuda on all matters relating to diabetes.

The experiences I’ve had as a result of living with diabetes have been incredible and have defined the person I am today, and I can honestly say that diabetes has had an overall positive impact on my life. That is a statement I would love to be able to go back in time and make to the scared eleven year old kid, sitting in the doctor’s office with tears streaming down his cheeks having just had his world turned upside-down. With all things in life your attitude determines your experience, and as a YLD I would like to spread that message to young people with diabetes. The goal of my project is to establish a network for youth with diabetes in Bermuda, with the aim of providing support to one another and setting the example to the entire community of the importance of a having a positive outlook in addition to a leading a healthy lifestyle.