A 12-year-old girl with diabetes is taking on 410km bike ride in Taiwan

A 12-year-old girl with diabetes is taking on 410km bike ride in Taiwan

It's not easy taking on a 410km bike ride, but a 12-year-old diabetic who only recently learned to cycle proves that anything is possible with a little determination

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Sammi Tsang (centre) is kitted out for the ride, alongside Lam Man-hay (left) and Vincent Chan, who also have type 1 diabetes and will take part in the ride.
Sammi Tsang (centre) is kitted out for the ride, alongside Lam Man-hay (left) and Vincent Chan, who also have type 1 diabetes and will take part in the ride.
Photo: Nora Tam

Cycling some 410km over four days isn't easy for anyone. But imagine taking on such a challenge while also dealing with an illness.

Well, that's exactly what Sammi Tsang Sum-yi, a 12-year-old who studies at the HKCCCU Logos Academy, is planning to do as she prepares to take part in this year's Ride for Youth Diabetes in Taiwan.

Sammi has type 1 diabetes. This is a serious illness where the body has trouble keeping its blood sugar at the right level. It can lead to all sorts of problems, like heart disease and kidney failure.

Type 1 diabetes is normally diagnosed during childhood. There is no reliable cure, but it can be managed. This means regular insulin injections, a strict diet and being careful with exercise.

So it was always going to be hard for Sammi to take part in a gruelling bike ride. But there was an even bigger problem - she couldn't ride a bike.

"Despite not knowing how to ride a bike, I volunteered to join the programme," says Sammi. "I asked my parents to join me because I think it will be [a huge achievement]."

With a little help from her parents and a friend she met, it didn't take Sammi long to learn.

"It took Sammi two hours to grasp the technique of cycling," says her mum, Angela Tsang. "We have trained [as a family] for around 100 hours. We want an experience our whole family can share for a lifetime."

As well as her parents, Sammi will have plenty of support during the ride. She will cycle with a team of more than 30 people, including other people with type 1 diabetes, family members, medical professionals and cycling volunteers.

Sammi is also raising money to fight diabetes. She's raised an impressive HK$30,700 from friends, family and teachers, and was awarded a silver top fundraiser prize in the process.

Sammi's dad, Tennessee Tsang, also sees it as a chance to show other parents that children with type 1 diabetes can still take on big challenges.

"At present, there is no cure for this disease, but we want to tell parents facing a similar situation that children with type 1 diabetes are no different," he says.

"As long as you are careful, they can still exercise, live well and be happy like other kids. Do not hide [away] from the disease."

The precautions are quite simple. It is important to make sure there is always insulin nearby. During the four-month training programme, Sammi's parents also kept fruit juice and sweets at hand in case her blood sugar levels suddenly dropped.

Generally, however, Sammi has to avoid the sweets her friends enjoy. But there are some perks for the Form Two student - she holds a special card which gives her free admission to Ocean Park.

"It is frustrating seeing my peers enjoying a lot of sweet food but it is OK, as long as I can still eat, I'm grateful," she says.

It's that optimism which will get her through the long ride from Taipei to Kaohsiung when she sets off with her family on Saturday.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Blood, sweat and gears

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