Ukrainian refugee, 10, fitted with ‘priceless’ and life-changing insulin pump

·4-min read

A diabetic 10-year-old who fled the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been fitted with a life-changing insulin pump after a “priceless” donation from a technology company.

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2020, Ukrainian refugee Dasha Makarenko needed at least four injections of insulin per day and constant care from her parents.

After seeing a fundraising campaign for her online, global medical technology company Medtronic contacted Dasha and has now fitted her with an automatic insulin pump – negating the need for manual injections and allowing her to lead “a near normal life”.

Dasha Makarenko, 10, who has type one diabetes, urgently needed medication after her family fled their home in Chernihiv, northern Ukraine.
Dasha Makarenko, 10, who has type one diabetes, urgently needed medication after her family fled their home in Chernihiv, northern Ukraine (John Rice/PA)

John Rice, 56, who is from Northampton but has lived in Slovakia for a decade, first contacted the Makarenko family through Facebook after they were forced to flee their home in Chernihiv, northern Ukraine.

Dasha, her father Yehevny, 39, and mother Svetlana, 45, travelled by car for five days with their two cats before they settled at Mr Rice’s home near Trencin, Slovakia.

Mr Rice set up a fundraising page to cover the costs of Dasha’s medicine when her parents were unable to find work while they cared for their daughter.

After the original fundraising goal of £5,000 was met in just seven days, Mr Rice was approached by Medtronic who offered Dasha the life-changing treatment.

“I could not dream of such a thing even in my most daring and optimistic thoughts,” Mr Makarenko told the PA news agency.

“Our family is happy that so many people responded to our requests for help – for us, this is priceless.

“I want to believe that Dasha will finally be able to start living a full life.”

Yehevny (right) and Svetlana Makarenko, with their daughter Dasha, 10,
Yehevny (right) and Svetlana Makarenko, with their daughter Dasha fled by car to Slovakia (John Rice/PA)

Injections of insulin with a syringe only allow for a set dosage which meant Dasha would sometimes receive too little or too much.

When this happened she was forced to repeat the injections or compensate for low blood sugar levels with food.

While escaping Ukraine the family almost ran out of food and Dasha’s parents had to stop eating to ensure there was enough left to raise her blood sugar levels when needed.

Upon learning about Dasha’s case, a local Medtronic representative called Maria Szarkova drove 200km to meet and reassure the family.

Ms Szarkova, who has been living with type 1 diabetes for 33 years, put the family in contact with a specialist diabetes educator from the Ukrainian branch of Medtronic, who has also been displaced by the war, to provide diabetes support in Dasha’s native language.

Dasha Makarenko with her new insulin pump
The latest generation insulin pump that Dasha is now using benefits from an advanced algorithm which makes automatic insulin adjustments and corrections (John Rice/PA)

Dasha was then seen by one of Slovakia’s leading experts on the treatment of children with diabetes who arranged for her to be fitted with Medtronic’s latest-generation insulin pump system.

The pump uses an algorithm to make automatic insulin adjustments and corrections every five minutes to help stabilise glucose levels.

The Makarenko family have remained close to Mr Rice, despite having moved into their own home nearby, and Dasha has been enrolled in a local school.

Mr Rice told PA: “To help a family escape their home country and raise money for them has been incredible.

“I am humbled by what they have gone through and how Dasha has adapted to life in Slovakia.

“She is now living a near normal life and knowing Dasha, she will make the very most of every opportunity.

“I would like to thank again all the generous and kind people who have made contributions towards helping a family who were in crisis.”

Before the war, Mr Makarenko was the head of key accounts for a large Ukrainian electronics store and Mrs Makarenko worked in an accounts department.

Mr Makarenko was allowed to leave Ukraine because he is his daughter’s carer but her dependence on her parents has made it difficult for them to find work.

The success of Dasha’s new treatment will mean the family can focus on rebuilding their lives.

Mr Makarenko added: “Before her illness Dasha attended dance lessons and performed on stage, the disease put an end to that but now she will finally be able to take up dancing again.”

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