Hidden in plain sight

More than 30,000 New Zealanders have Type 1 diabetes. When Wellingtonian Bridget Scanlan was diagnosed, she had a new set of accessories that had to somehow fit into her life – and handbag. Here’s what she did as a result. 

Words Joy Stephens

A Type 1 diabetes diagnosis can come out of the blue and be shocking and life changing. The condition usually happens when a person’s own immune system mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. While scientists around the world are working to find new cures and treatments, for now, being a Type 1 diabetic means a lifetime of daily blood sugar monitoring and insulin injections.

Seven years ago, aged 20, young Wellingtonian Bridget Scanlan was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. “I was blindsided. I’d never encountered anyone with diabetes before, and had little appreciation for what life with diabetes meant. It was a rushed and fairly nasty learning curve,” she says.

More than 30,000 New Zealanders have Type 1 diabetes. For them, and a proportion of the more than 200,000 Type 2 diabetics, daily life includes multiple finger prick tests to check blood sugar levels and injections of insulin 3+ times a day.  As well as needing constant checking and awareness, the condition requires carrying a multitude of equipment at all times, including: blood test monitor, finger pricker, test strips and insulin pens, and emergency supplies for people who use insulin pumps.

“After I was diagnosed, all of a sudden I had a new set of accessories that had to somehow fit into my life – and handbag. I looked for something that would keep me feeling well organised and put together, but nothing fit the bill.”

Stemming from her own experiences as a young person with diabetes, Scanlan wanted to find a way to empower diabetics like herself to help make adjusting to life with diabetes easier. Having completed qualifications in both business and fashion, she focused on developing a business which would address the problem of organising and stashing equipment. She has come up with K Y T – a range of stylish and functional bags made from New Zealand leather – and she has plans to go global.

“Whether people want to make a statement when carrying their diabetes equipment, or want a simple way to keep it all discretely hidden in plain sight, K Y T is designed to help make things easier. The range will have room for all diabetes essentials including a pouch for strips and sharps (discarded needles), along with space for other bag staples, such as cards and phones. They’re likely to be priced between $250 and $400.”

Scanlan hopes that K Y T (Keeping You Together) bags will not only help people keep their physical equipment together, but will help them feel emotionally collected as well. November is Diabetes Action Month and is a timely reminder of both the physical and emotional impact diabetes has on people throughout the world. “Diabetes doesn’t define you. But it’s a significant part of many peoples’ lives. I hope K Y T is a way to help them live life to its fullest,” she says.

Bridget is currently in talks with local groups to help refine her designs: “The bags are based on my own experience with diabetes, but I’m keen to make sure they’re a hit with others. I’m seeking feedback on how they look, wear and function and to make sure the linings fit any variances in equipment and that the exteriors deliver on the fashion front.”

About 420 million people have diabetes worldwide – 10% have Type 1 diabetes. In the U.S. alone there are more than one million people with the condition. Scanlan plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign in February 2018 to enable her to develop and grow her business for the global market. 

Follow K Y T’s journey and see the bags here. 

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