Amanda in Sierra Leone - pictured with a vehicle with a medical trolley inside behind her

Amanda's life-saving mission is an eye-opener

A specialist diabetes nurse who lives with Type 1 diabetes herself spent two weeks in a war-torn country helping teach other healthcare professionals.

Amanda Epps, East Kent Hospital’s lead nurse for diabetes, volunteered with charity Help Madina and took vital supplies for patients and staff in Sierra Leone.

Until last year, people living in the Madina district had no access to insulin, which is key to managing diabetes and helping people with the condition stay well by allowing their body to absorb carbohydrates from their food.

Amanda, who lives in Faversham, said: “People would just die, and it’s a horrible death. There are no adults with Type 1 diabetes because they all die in childhood.

“The charity’s last trip set them up with insulin so now they have a chance of life. Our job was to go and teach them more about how to manage diabetes, because a lot of the nurses don’t know.

“There are so many misconceptions, so they were telling people to starve rather than eat rice, or they thought it was caused by witchcraft, so people were abandoned or taken to traditional healers to use herbs.”

Amanda travelled with a dietitian and a podiatrist and the team visited different villages sharing an educational film, which in one location had to be shown on a solar-powered television.

They also visited a hospital and an outreach programme with a feeding centre, and took equipment such as devices to help monitor glucose levels in the blood.

Amanda said: “It was a real eye-opening experience. People were living in mud houses, with tin roofs, no electricity or running water, and no furniture, just a mattress on the mud floor.

“I have never seen so many complications from diabetes. Everyone has foot wounds or eye issues.

“I think our main impact was teaching them carbohydrate counting. Now they have insulin they can have carbs, and because we were able to teach the nurses, they will advise new patients, so we have made a change and they will start hopefully start eating properly and growing.

“It made me realise how lucky we are. They can’t do diabetes-specific bloods or antibody testing or any of our standard tests we do every single day. Some people can’t afford the test to check their blood glucose levels, which we would do several times a day.

“I couldn’t not help when I heard about it and realised the difference we could make.”

As well as fundraising to pay for their trip, the group also raised £3,500 which will pay for a specialist diabetes nurse for the village for three years, and buy a laptop for them to use.

They intend to stay in touch with virtual training and MDT meetings to give advice on diabetes management, and Amanda hopes to return to the area next year.

You can find out more or donate to Help Madina at