A visit from the world’s first all-diabetes professional cycling team, and presentation from one of their lead riders, was among the highlights of the two day Health and Wellbeing Fair at the University of Wolverhampton.
The event took place on successive days at the Walsall and City campuses, and on the second day Team Novo Nordisk popped in as part of their week-long cycle ride across the UK to mark National Diabetes Week.
This followed a Bikeathon challenged staged at the Walsall Campus on Monday when visitors were encouraged to cycle in 15-minute spells with money raised for the collective miles completed donated to the NHS as a 70th birthday gift.
Team Novo Nordisk are taking part in the ‘Pedal for 7’ challenge this week covering 553 miles from Sunderland to Oxford to inspire people living with diabetes. (Click here to follow their progress on Twitter).
Justin Morris, a former professional cyclist himself who hails from Sydney, also gave an engaging presentation to visitors describing his battle since being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of ten.
“For 22 years I have left with the consistent and constant challenge of Type 1 Diabetes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days of the year,” said Justin.
“I was ten years old when I was first diagnosed, and I still remember hearing about the restrictions this would place on my life, and how shocking and confusing it was for me as a young boy.
“It was not just the physical side of the diagnosis, but the mental and emotional shock.
“At that time my dream in life, all I wanted to do, was to become a jet fighter pilot, and I was told that wasn’t going to be possible.”
Whilst still wrestling with the diagnosis as he prepared to move through his teenage years, there were two sportsmen in particular who inspired the young Justin.
Steve Renouf, who defied Diabetes to become a Rugby League legend with Brisbane Broncos and Australia, and rower Steve Redgrave, who was diagnosed with Diabetes after winning his fourth Olympic Gold but still went on to claim a record-breaking fifth at the Sydney games in 2000.
“That was a turning point for me, learning about those two guys,” added Justin.
“There was a quote from Steve Redgrave which I particularly took on board which reads: “I was not going to live with Diabetes, Diabetes was going to live with me.
“It was a time when I was trying to avoid going on the bus to school, with things like bullying and son on, so I decided to start cycling instead.
“I soon realised that when I was on a bike I had a smile on my face, and from there it all took off and I had a new dream, to become a professional cyclist.
“I started doing races, and then, from 2009 to 2014, I was a professional cyclist, racing in five different continents.
“I have fallen off a fair few times, and broken 11 bones so far, but I have managed to live my dream, and that is pretty cool!”
Justin still races at different events across the globe, including overcoming a particularly troublesome Hypoglycemic episode to still complete and finish in the top ten of last year’s Mongolia Challenge, but that is now combined with his ambassadorial role for Type 1 Diabetes sufferers and his place in Team Novo Nordisk, which launched in 2013.
“Since its inception, the key message of the team is about hope and empowerment about what people with Type One Diabetes are, and what we do,” Justin added.
“The ride we are doing across the UK, and coming to places like the University of Wolverhampton today, helps us to spread that message and hopefully inspire a new generation of role models just like I had with Steve Renouf and Steve Redgrave.”
Also present at the Health & Wellbeing fair was a labrador dog called Magic, who is also Magic by nature in being able to alert their owner to their low blood sugar levels so they can take immediate action.
Across both days of the fair there were free health checks and acupressure head and neck massages, free smoothies (if you could cycle quickly enough to earn one!) and advice and information from the NHS and other local voluntary sector organisations.