Twenty-five years ago, 9 young adults living with Type 1 diabetes plus a medical support team took on a challenge to successfully climb the highest peak in each of the 4 provinces in Ireland in under 36 hours. The young adults came together from different parts of the country with the aim of showing that living with Type 1 diabetes should not be a barrier to achieving your dreams.
At that time, there was a strong misconception of Type 1 diabetes was a barrier to gaining employment, participating in sports and being able to participate in the full school curriculum. Most importantly, there was a need to address the lack of confidence among young people living with Type 1 diabetes themselves.
An RTE documentary team filmed the challenge in 1997, and 25 years on, Diabetes Ireland recently brought some of the participants and the medical team together again to celebrate the achievement by climbing Croagh Patrick and producing a reunion video. The new footage details their lives with diabetes over the last 25 years, the changes they have seen in that time, such as the impact of diabetes technology and the challenges they have ensued. Once again, the aim is to instil confidence in today’s adolescents and young adults living with Type 1 diabetes and to raise awareness of Type 1 diabetes in the wider population.
Orla McCarrick from Sligo, a lecturer at Atlantic Technological University, and a mother of 2 children said, “Diabetes is now just a part of my life and does not define who I am. Twenty-five years ago it was a much bigger part of my life and a large part of everyday revolved around managing my diabetes.” Orla puts that down to the development of technology such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors, which over the last 8-10 years significantly enhance her daily life and were crucial in successfully controlling her diabetes during 2 pregnancies.
Kieran Flannagan from Galway was in his own words “a young buck” who did not really do the things his mother and diabetes team wanted him to do to manage his diabetes effectively. Twenty-five years on, Kieran recently had a kidney and pancreas transplant and wants to highlight the importance of managing your condition well today and reap the benefits in later years enjoying a better quality of life. Climbing Croagh Patrick was a huge personal challenge he set for himself 25 years later and is a major focus in the video.
Fergal Cronin from Mallow in Co. Cork highlights the impact technology has on his Type 1 diabetes management, calling it “a game changer” in his working, sporting, and family life encouraging access to diabetes technology for everyone living with Type 1 diabetes in Ireland. Even though he had not seen other participants in many years, he remembers their courage and determination made the event an undoubted lifetime experience with the reunion bringing back strong memories and similar feelings once again. “For me the 4 Peaks was one summer of preparation, 36 hours of gruelling hard slog, leading to a legacy of a lifetime! Only with the benefit of 25 years of hindsight have I had the opportunity to recognise the life skills the 4 Peaks gave me. I’m extremely grateful to the organisers for all they did. An opportunity and experience of a lifetime,” said Fergal.
Professor Chris Thompson, who had the original idea of the 4 Peaks Challenge said “The achievement of completing the challenge in 36 hours was phenomenal and to see many of the same participants achieving great things in life is fantastic to see. To catch up with everyone at Croagh Patrick 25 years later was very special and I hope all people with diabetes will watch the video and enjoy the experience.”
Four Peaks Reunion