Around a year ago, 12-year-old Houssam suddenly lost consciousness and nearly fell into a coma. After being hospitalized, the boy was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. But Houssam and his family live in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley, where there are very few treatment options for children living with the disease.
“The news really scared us,” said Mohammed, Houssam’s father. “We didn’t know that this disease could affect children. We had wrong perceptions about diabetes and how its treatment goes.” Houssam’s parents couldn’t afford the costly long-term treatment Houssam needed, so he was referred to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)—first to our pediatric ward at the Elias Hraoui Governmental Hospital in Zahle, where he was stabilized, then to a clinic in Aarsal for continuous diabetes care.
In Aarsal, MSF provides medical consultations, treatment, and health education. Houssam also received all the necessary tools to measure his blood sugar levels and receive insulin injections. Type 1 diabetes affects young people, who often have trouble adapting to life with an incurable chronic disease. One of the hardest things to adjust to is taking medication via injections.
In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, preventing blood sugar (glucose) from entering cells to for energy production. Treatment of the disease requires periodic monitoring of blood sugar levels, especially since children affected by type 1 diabetes are prone to sudden imbalances that can have serious complications and long-term side effects.
However, these risks don’t mean patients can’t still live normal lives with proper care, which is where MSF comes in. With disease management education for parents and children and regular medical follow-ups, patients like Houssam can continue to pursue their dreams.
“I dream of traveling to Sweden to study and become a doctor,” says Houssam. “I got used to living with the disease, and I am now able to keep it under control with the help of my parents and the support of the medical team. The most difficult thing about it is not being able to have French fries whenever I want and having to take insulin with needles."