An 11-year-old diabetic whose blood sugar levels had to be checked 10 times a day has gone to his first sleepover - after being fitted with a pioneering ‘bionic’ pancreas.
Daniel Walls was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes three years ago because his body was not producing enough insulin.
He had to have to check his blood regularly throughout the day and his parents had to repeatedly get up in the night to test him.
He then had a pump fitted so his parents could programme it to infuse insulin directly under his skin and into the bloodstream when his blood sugar was low.
And with this happening around ten times a day Daniel was left too frightened to leave his parents’ side for more than a few hours.
But now the youngster has been fitted with an ipod-like device which mimics the role of the pancreas and does everything for him.
The mini computer checks his sugar levels with a sensor under the skin and activates an insulin pump to release the right amount of hormone as needed into his body.
The device, called an artificial pancreas (AP), has given Daniel a new sense of freedom and he has been to his first sleepover away from home.
Daniel, from Tilbrook, near Kimbolton, said: “I feel safer with the AP as it keeps my bloods in a safe range.
“I know it’s dangerous if they get too low or too high when I’m asleep and I don’t have to be woken up during the night now by my mum asking me to eat something because my blood is low.
“I have better control of my blood levels overnight which is good and I can now go on sleepovers with my friends. The AP keeps me safe.”
Daniel is one of 15 diabetic youngsters in the UK who are taking part in trials of the pioneering artificial pancreas.
He added: “Sometimes I get annoyed when my blood level is high and I’m not allowed to do sports until my bloods are lower.
“Sometimes I miss out on things my friends are doing and that makes me sad.
“But I have done lots of things that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t have Type 1, like go to parliament and ask for better care in schools.
“I also got a letter from the Duchess of Cornwall and I have made good friends with other children with Type 1.”
Mum Susan, 45, said: “It sounds simple, but it has made a huge difference to Daniel’s life that he can go and stay over with friends.
“He was never comfortable before because we would have ask his friends’ parents to check his blood sugar levels
“The trial has really changed his life, it’s given a lot more independence. I can also sleep a bit easier too.”
The mother-of-one, who is the director of a training company, added: “It is going to be incredibly difficult to hand back a piece of technology that does such an amazing job.
“That is why fundraising to help progress this research and turn it into reality is so important.”
Daniel spent five months getting used to the artifical pancreas from April and since September he has been using it solely to manage his condition.
The trial with the 15 diabetic youngsters is being led jointly by the University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
Dr Roman Hovorka of Cambridge University said: “We’re looking at two major aspects, improving glucose control to make it more stable and more normal.
“It’s going to be associated with patients with long term complications such as kidney or eye problems.
“And to reduce the risk resulting in lower glucose volumes, hyperglycaemia, when it happens at night.
“The system automatically controls the glucose during the day and night. Our study is a stepping stone.
“We’re looking beyond the study how it can progress to wider use. It’s an important study but it still needs to be followed by other investigations.
“It could transform and revolutionise treatment.”
Daniel and his mum found out about the artifical pancreas through the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation that supports people with Type 1 Diabetes.