Beating diabetes can be a winning game
It’s almost as if the World Health Organization had Kyle Jacques Rose in mind when deciding to make “Beat Diabetes” its 2016 World Health Day theme.
Not only does Kyle understand what it’s like to ride the diabetes roller coaster, but he’s also made it his life’s work to help others manage this chronic disease, which has reached epidemic proportions.
Diabetes affects insulin, the hormone that regulates people’s blood sugar. It occurs either when the pancreas has stopped producing insulin (Type 1), or when the body doesn’t produce enough or cannot effectively use the insulin it produces (Type 2). If left untreated, it can lead to health problems like kidney disease, nerve damage and eye complications. Diabetes can even be fatal.
Kyle was 16 when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which set the course for his adult life.
“Getting diagnosed was frightening because I didn’t understand how it would impact my life. I’ve since learned that diabetes will overwhelm me at times and realising that was a major step. A strong support network has helped me better manage things and inspired me to be active in the diabetes world. This didn’t happen right away, but once I became involved it felt like I was getting a lot back from it,” he tells This Is Medtech.
With his unwavering dedication to tackling the disease on various fronts ‒ as a patient advocate, as a professional athlete and as a medtech entrepreneur ‒ Kyle is the embodiment of the Beat Diabetes message.
The patient advocate
“I wear a lot of hats, but first and foremost I consider myself as a patient advocate,” he says. “People were there to help when I needed it and now I’m giving back, which I hope to do for many years.”
Kyle’s activities range from working with young adults at diabetes summer camps run by the International Diabetes Federation (whose board he sits on) to visiting hospitals in poor countries like Bolivia, where getting the proper medical treatment is the exception rather than the rule. “I feel privileged to have had access to a diabetes therapy that has enabled me to lead a healthy life,” he says.
“Insulin pump therapy and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) have not only reduced my risk for developing health complications, but they also have significantly increased my quality of life,” adds Kyle. The devices, which are attached to his abdomen and upper arm respectively, are no bigger than a matchbox. The CGM monitors his glucose levels and the insulin pump injects the medicine he needs to survive as a person with Type 1 diabetes.
The professional athlete
This medtech helped Kyle push the limits in competitive sport. Cycling more than 25 hours per week had been extremely demanding on his body and these devices were an important part of his training “tool-kit”. He often rode with mission-based teams like Team Type 1 in order to put diabetes awareness into the spotlight.
Today, Kyle is a spokesperson for sporting events such as the mHealth Grand Tour, an annual ride that aims to educate people about the importance of exercise in managing the disease as well as new diabetes technology. The tour’s inaugural event went from Brussels to Barcelona and since then has tackled other challenging routes.
“Exercise can be very intimidating for anyone, let alone people with diabetes, who have many more considerations, but it’s vital to diabetes therapy and setting up a comfortable environment can make all the difference in encouraging people to take the first step,” he explains.
The medtech entrepreneur
This philosophy spills over into Kyle’s work as a medtech innovator, where he’s constantly looking for solutions to improve the lives of people with diabetes and make it easier for them to manage their condition.
For example, he’s involved in mobile health initiatives to develop a series of apps that “help to take the sting out of diabetes” by teaching patients about it in a fun way while also helping them to keep on top of their disease. One of these apps has over 600,000 users globally.
With Kyle on its team, the global diabetes community has an unswerving ally in its fight against the disease.