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A day in the life of the Diabetes WA Helpline

KASI KEEFE talks us through a typical day on the Diabetes WA helpline.

What I like about working on the helpline is that it’s always different. No two days are the same. You’re never bored. Even when you can answer someone’s question, it often leads to you learning something new. People living with diabetes are often such experts, that you find yourself with a new idea to research or follow up on.

On our busiest days, an educator might take 26 calls. I’ve done 11 so far today and answered a heap of emails. The questions we get are so varied and unpredictable. Just this morning, I had someone ask if removing their pancreas would cure diabetes (the answer is a definite no). The hardest ones are people who have read about miracle cures or quick fixes online. Sometimes people
don’t understand why Facebook will link to things that aren’t true. I try to refer them to Australian websites that are more reliable.

I come in each day with no expectations. Some of the calls are simple ones asking how much sugar is in a product, while others are more complex ones about how to manage insulin doses when they can’t see their GP. Some calls are urgent ones about treating a hypo, which I might escalate to my manager. Some calls are from employers, with pointy questions about legislation and

Some calls can be quite emotional, because people living with diabetes receive so many mixed messages from different sources. We help them to understand and make sense of the information for themselves.

The most satisfying calls for me are the ones where you have a breakthrough moment – “Oh, I get it now!” Someone who doesn’t understand why their GP isn’t bringing their blood glucose levels
down faster, for example. When you can chat with someone and help them understand why their GP has suggested a certain course of action, that’s great.

We can also provide the sort of specialised advice that other health professionals might struggle with. People using insulin – particularly those with type 1 or gestational diabetes – can require very specific support. We can offer that or at least point people in the right direction.

Find out what happens when you call the Diabetes WA Helpline here.

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