Ryan Hooey remembers when he lost his sight like it was yesterday. He went bowling on a Saturday night eight years ago, and when he woke up on Sunday morning, he couldn’t see. He was only 26 years old.
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was seven, Ryan learned to give himself insulin injections and managed his diabetes as a young adult. He excelled in sports, earning a college baseball scholarship.
Despite his family history of diabetes—many members of his family, some of whom are Indigenous, live with type 1 or type 2—and the fact that diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in Canada for people aged 20-65. Ryan never ever expected to experience diabetic retinopathy firsthand.
Starting from scratch
“I had to relearn everything, from how to use a computer and phone, and how to prepare food,” he says. Support came from specialists at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), who helped him learn independent living skills. Ryan now works for the organization and has a guide dog named Joe.
Unfortunately managing diabetes without being able to read the feedback from his insulin pump was harder. “All of the alerts sound the same. If I don’t have a sighted person around to help me, I can get in trouble pretty quickly.” He has become a passionate advocate, talking to diabetes product manufacturers about the need for accessibility modifications to better help him and other Canadians manage their diabetes.
Showing his support
Ryan is also supporting Diabetes Canada by raising awareness about Diabetes 360°, and the need for a national diabetes strategy to improve prevention, screening and treatment so people can avoid diabetes-related complications where possible, and also help them afford the costs related to the disease especially when they don’t have insurance. Research is also an important part of the strategy.
Now 34 and living in Windsor, Ont., Ryan worries about the future of his two-year-old daughter, Abigail, whom he has never seen. “I don’t want her– or any child – to have to grow up with diabetes like I did.” He and his family also worry about his future and about other diabetes-related complications: “I often worry about what could happen next. Does it get worse than blindness? Will something have to be amputated? Will I need dialysis?”
But he is not without hope. “I want to see my daughter get married. With research, anything is possible.”
Did you know?
2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin. Today, more Canadians have diabetes than ever before. Diabetes or prediabetes affects 1 in 3 Canadians. One in 2 young adults will develop diabetes in their remaining lifetime. We can’t wait another 100 years to End Diabetes. #LetsEndDiabetes Visit 100 Years of Insulin to learn more, including how you can support those living with or at risk for the disease.
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