Meet Dave Barnes, type 1 diabetic, marathon man, Dad

Guest Post by Dave Barnes, Person with type 1 diabetes and diabetic athlete!


I have T1 Diabetes. I was diagnosed in 1974 when I was three years of age. My earliest memory was being in a hospital. All the kids were bald and a little crazy. Turns out later they had me in with the cancer kids. They all thought they were going to die and did crazy stuff. I thought this is serious, am I gonna die too?

Remember I am just small. I remember being little as mum chased me around the house to give me my morning needle, I used to hide under tables and behind furniture. I remember using the first blood sugar testing machine, ever, built by a Sydney man. It was a real wow experience and took 2 minutes to get a reading. I remember when I was about seven my dad took me aside and opened a cupboard and showed me his needles; he shared with me that he was a diabetic too. It was a real honour to be let into this secret world. He had lived with his diabetes in a closet telling no one. Different times. He died of complications three years later.

dave_viet_webMy teens and early adult life with T1 was up and down, I lived like I did not have it. Sure I did diabetic camps, saw doctors, did the basics, diabetes was something I recognised but did not place front and centre. To me it was something I had but did not want and if it was going to hang around it was going on a ride with me and not me with it.

In my teens there was a touch of teenage rebellion going on. See, the condition killed me father so I think in hindsight I thought it was going to do me in too and so I lived hard, played hard; rock climbing, other extreme sports, partying, smoking. I did not tell many people about it to be honest. I was good at those sports to as I put everything into it. The feelings of climbing a very hard cliff or mountain makes you feel invincible so I thought I was above the T1 which was a good place to be growing up.

Except for the downside; when you play with extremes you get to dance with the devil and I had my fair share of hypos to die for and coma’s to match them. I was once on a mountain in NZ and a rescue helicopter came for me ( on arrival I talked them out of it) and spent another week in a mess trying to survive the mountains not climbing them! I spent another three days in a coma in the Blue Mountains. After a serious day of climbing I just had nothing left in my tank and that night I had a coma that almost killed me. It took years to recover from that.

By my 30’s I was still alive and had settled down enough to believe I was going to love. I met a girl, got married, she married my T1 too. With my kids I really began to change my thinking and after experiencing job loss and some hurdles found myself with depression, all to do with my diabetes. My diabetic nurse simply said. “Dave, your not right, have you seen someone about depression?” It was a wake up.

I changed to a pump, balanced out my Bsl’s and got my head together.


Today I have strengthened in good ways. I am not so much a bad boy, but I do still push the extremes, doing triathlon, climbing and marathons. Now though I manage the danger appropriately and not with reckless abandon, as I have a wife who loves me, kids who need me and diabetes that can be controlled via me and my pump almost to perfection. I have support through an excellent diabetic team in Hobart and by my online diabetes community.

Life is good and these experiences have made me wiser. I am proud to be a diabetic and to be a survivor. I want to take the challenge and live a long and healthy life.



  1. Tracey on May 14, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Wow Dave, thanks for sharing your story. So real and honest. It will resonate with many and help many. Proud of you x

  2. Tori Grimes on May 19, 2014 at 1:07 am

    Very inspiring Dave. I’m impressed with all the exercise and the ‘perfection’ of your pump. What’s your secret..? I’m on a pump and it’s far from perfect. Been on it for 11 years. Love to know how often you analyse your basal rates and make adjustments?

    • dave on August 29, 2014 at 12:37 pm

      Hi Toni

      Thanks for your question, sorry for the delay in getting back to you!

      I do a lot of testrs per day to keep it tracking well.

      When excercising deepending on how long i am out and the intensity i will give myself a temp basal of up to 60 percent down from normal dose. I also test in hour blocks if on the road cycling or out running.

      It is a constant and does require discipline but easier than large portions of insulin running riot with your activity when doing injections.