Diabetes diagnosis inspires lifetime support for others - Health - NZ Herald News Diabetes diagnosis inspires lifetime support for others 4:00AM Wednesday Apr 08, 2009 By Vaimoana Tapaleao Gail Ellison says she gets more out of helping others than anything else. Photo / Paul Estcourt Having to deal with diabetes since she was a child led Gail Ellison to a lifetime of helping support others with the disease. Mrs Ellison was diagnosed with type one diabetes when she was just 7 years old. After growing up knowing insulin injections to be part of "normal life", she volunteered to be the co-ordinator of the Avondale/New Lynn Diabetes Support Group after the group was at risk of being disbanded. That was 15 years ago. "I got involved mainly to help people going through it for the first time. "When people are diagnosed with diabetes, they think that they are the only ones that have it. It's an awful shock - they're going through a lot, thinking about it," Mrs Ellison said. "It's just talking to them and it's showing them that they're not alone." The New Lynn resident, whose support group is the second largest in Auckland, organises a guest speaker and transport for members attending the meeting each month. Special diabetic dinners and movie nights are also events Mrs Ellison likes to arrange for the group of up to 65 members. A newsletter she writes is distributed within the group, providing advice and messages of support and encouragement. Mrs Ellison's husband, Graeme, also gets in on the act, driving his wife to people's houses when they need one-on-one support. "Some people can get very upset after being diagnosed," she said. "I never went through that [because] I was 7 years old when I was diagnosed - it was just part of normal life. [So] just to be there for them is a big thing." Friend and assistant general manager for Diabetes NZ Auckland, Marguerite Durling, said she nominated Mrs Ellison as an unsung hero because of her genuine willingness to help others. "She's been such a loyal supporter," Ms Durling said. "It's a real juggling act for many people - but she just doesn't say no, [she's] always willing to help." Mrs Ellison said she will continue to help those with diabetes deal with the disease, by continuing her work in support groups. "It can happen to anyone and it's better to be open about it, look after yourself and keep a good lifestyle," she said. "Helping others - I get more out of doing that than anything else."