Ukrainian refugee, 10, fitted ‘priceless’Insulin pump that can change your life

After fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a diabetic, a 10-year old boy with diabetes was fitted with an insulin pump. “priceless”A technology company may donate.

In 2020, Dasha Makarenko, a Ukrainian refugee, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She required at least four insulin injections per day and constant care by her parents.

After seeing a fundraising campaign for her online, global medical technology company Medtronic contacted Dasha and has now fitted her with an automatic insulin pump – negating the need for manual injections and allowing her to lead “a near normal life”.

Dasha Makarenko, 10, who has type one diabetes, urgently needed medication after her family fled their home in Chernihiv, northern Ukraine.Dasha Makarenko (10 years old), who has type 1 diabetes, needed immediate medication after her family fled Chernihiv in northern Ukraine (John Rice/PA).

John Rice, 56, is originally from Northampton, but has lived in Slovakia since a decade. He first connected with the Makarenko family via Facebook after they fled their home in Chernihiv in northern Ukraine.

Dasha, her father Yehevny, 39, and mother Svetlana, 45, travelled by car for five days with their two cats before they settled at Mr Rice’s home near Trencin, Slovakia.

Mr Rice established a fundraising page to cover the costs of Dasha’s medicine when her parents were unable to find work while they cared for their daughter.

After the original fundraising goal of £5,000 was met in just seven days, Mr Rice was approached by Medtronic who offered Dasha the life-changing treatment.

“I could not dream of such a thing even in my most daring and optimistic thoughts,”The PA news agency was informed by Mr Makarenko.

“Our family is happy that so many people responded to our requests for help – for us, this is priceless.

“I want to believe that Dasha will finally be able to start living a full life.”

Yehevny (right) and Svetlana Makarenko, with their daughter Dasha, 10,Yehevny (right), and Svetlana Makarenko, their daughter Dasha, fled to Slovakia by car (John Rice/PA).

Insulin injections with a syringe can only be given in a fixed dose, so Dasha might sometimes get too much or too little.

This caused her to have to either repeat the injections again or replace low blood sugar with food.

While escaping Ukraine the family almost ran out of food and Dasha’s parents had to stop eating to ensure there was enough left to raise her blood sugar levels when needed.

Upon learning about Dasha’s case, a local Medtronic representative called Maria Szarkova drove 200km to meet and reassure the family.

Ms Szarkova, who has been living with type 1 diabetes for 33 years, put the family in contact with a specialist diabetes educator from the Ukrainian branch of Medtronic, who has also been displaced by the war, to provide diabetes support in Dasha’s native language.

Dasha Makarenko with her new insulin pumpDasha’s latest insulin pump uses an advanced algorithm that automatically adjusts and corrects insulin (John Rice/PA).

Dasha was then seen by one of Slovakia’s leading experts on the treatment of children with diabetes who arranged for her to be fitted with Medtronic’s latest-generation insulin pump system.

To stabilize glucose levels, the pump uses an algorithm that makes automatic insulin adjustments and corrections every five seconds.

Despite having moved to a nearby home, the Makarenkos have maintained close ties with Mr Rice. Dasha has also been enrolled in local schools.

PA was informed by Mr Rice: “To help a family escape their home country and raise money for them has been incredible.

“I am humbled by what they have gone through and how Dasha has adapted to life in Slovakia.

“She is now living a near normal life and knowing Dasha, she will make the very most of every opportunity.

“I would like to thank again all the generous and kind people who have made contributions towards helping a family who were in crisis.”

Dasha was a dancer and took lessons before her illness. However, she lost the ability to perform on stage.

Yehevny Makarenko

Before the war, Mr Makarenko was head of key accounts at a large Ukrainian electronics retailer. Mrs Makarenko worked as an accountant.

Mr Makarenko was allowed to leave Ukraine because he is his daughter’s carer but her dependence on her parents has made it difficult for them to find work.

The success of Dasha’s new treatment will mean the family can focus on rebuilding their lives.

Mr Makarenko also added: “Before her illness Dasha attended dance lessons and performed on stage, the disease put an end to that but now she will finally be able to take up dancing again.”

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