DESPITE having to endure a rigorous daily schedule of blood tests and injections in order to manage Type 1 diabetes, eight year-old Micheál McCullagh is one of a number of Tyrone natives taking Ulster and Irish motocross by storm.
Originally from the Gortin area, but now living just outside Dungiven, the St John’s Priamary School, Dernaflaw, pupil was diagnosed as suffering from the lifelong condition which, if mismanaged can be terminal, at the age of five.
Type 1 diabetes is a disease of the immune system, which affects around 10 per cent of people with the condition in the UK. It errantly attacks the body’s insulin factories (beta-cells) so there is not enough of the hormone to control blood sugar levels.
And since Micheál’s diagnosis, his parents, dad Mick, a former quad racer, and mum Donna-Marie, have been in charge of his intensive daily health care regime.
“His blood needs checked every two hours, he has to eat every two hours and he’s on multiple injections, six or seven per day. It’s every day and you have to keep testing his blood because there’s no down time, even on race days,” explained Donna-Marie.
Mick added: “His [diabetes] is really serious, if you don’t look after it properly you could be dead the next day, it’s a serious business.
“So even that he’s out [racing] is a good achievement! He’s as fit and as strong as anything now.”
Last year, young Micheál showed no ill-effects from his daily health regimen, impressing on board his 50cc machine, claiming several titles in the process, although his dad feels if they had focussed more seriously on results they could have won even more.
“Last year we didn’t really worry about the Ulster or the Irish Championships, we just did selected rounds of them,” he explained.
“We probably lost a lot of championships last year through mistakes and stuff, but he won the Errigal Championship, was second by just a point in the Ulster Barley Stubble (Bushmills), which was my fault because we should have won it handy enough but had bike troubles! It really did come down to the last race on the last day, it was entertaining!
“But then he won the Club Championship in the MCCNI and finished second in one and third in another and was named rider of the year as well.”
Since then, the McCullaghs have purchased a KTM machine for Micheál to compete in the 65cc cadet class of the Ulster and Irish Championships, and selected rounds of the British.
FULL STORY IN THURSDAY’S ULSTER HERALD