Ex-Eastender and Strictly star Nina Wadia on her son's battle with Type 1 diabetes

·4 min read

Actress Nina Wadia has opened up about her son's experience of Type 1 diabetes to raise awareness of the chronic illness. 

Nina, 52, appeared on this year's series of Strictly Come Dancing with professional dance partner Neil Jones but was knocked out after a dance-off with fellow soap actress Katie McGlynn.

As an actress and comedian, she's best known for playing Zainab Masood in Eastenders for six years and Rupinder in Goodness Gracious Me prior to that. 

However, her world changed in 2017 when her son Aidan, now 14, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. 

He was taken to hospital after becoming seriously ill with a virus he caught at school, which didn't go away.

After passing out and being carried into A&E by his dad, doctors realised Aidan was experiencing symptoms of Type 1 diabetes which include extreme thirst, exhaustion, losing weight unintentionally and needing to urinate frequently, especially at night.

Nina spoke to Yahoo Life about the shock of the diagnosis. 

She said: "I remember saying to the nurse when she said, 'well didn't you know, it's type one' and I went 'type one what? What are you talking about?' I knew of diabetes. 

"I did not know of the distinctions because it's not something that's in our family or that I've really heard of before.

"Suddenly, you're thrown into a room with other parents and kids and it's only then that I started to realise, oh, gosh, this affects a lot of people.

"Then we were taught how to use injections."

The auto-immune condition affects approximately 400,000 people in the UK. 

Read more: This hidden condition has left half of sufferers feeling 'unsupported' through pandemic

Nina with her son Aidan Mirza. (Credit: Nina Wadia)
Nina with her son Aidan Mirza. (Credit: Nina Wadia)

It occurs when the pancreas cannot produce insulin, the hormone responsible for keeping blood sugar levels in a healthy range. 

Consequently, people who suffer from the condition have to take insulin via a pump or an injection before every meal. 

Most Type 1 diabetics receive their diagnosis during childhood, though it can occur at any age. 

Read more: What is type 1 diabetes?

For the past few years Nina has been very outspoken about the disease. 

In January, she received an OBE for her services to charity and entertainment. 

In 2019 she wrote a book called Bionic T1D about a boy with Type 1, based on her son, to normalise the challenges that come with being diabetic. 

She said: "At the beginning I found myself crying a lot. I was very down, I was very depressed. Because, at that point, I didn't really see an end in sight.

"I spoke to one of my friends and she said "Look, why don't you just write about this?" I thought writing was a very therapeutic thing and I started as a writer in my career when I was 18.

"So before I knew it, Bionic T1D was just out there and now it's been put on the KS2 reading list."

Many type 1 diabetics dread having to prick their fingers several times a day. (Getty Images)
Many Type 1 diabetics dread having to prick their fingers several times a day. (Getty Images)

More recently, Nina has partnered up with Dexcom, a company that makes continuous glucose monitors for diabetics. 

Continuous glucose monitors have been proven to help people with diabetes keep their levels down, reducing the chance of long-term complications, and helping reduce the number of 'hypos' they experience.

A hypo occurs when glucose levels drop too low, and can be life threatening if not treated urgently.

Aidan uses a device called the Dexcom G6. The wearable device measures his glucose levels constantly, whereas prior to that Aidan was pricking his fingers eight times a day. 

Nina added: "It was just hard to keep on top of the highs and the lows. And frustrating. Incredibly frustrating.

"It's not easy knowing that it can lead to a fatality, and if it's not taken care of, it can lead to long term complications. The Dexcom G6 has really helped because you can see what the [glucose level] is doing at all times. 

"The one thing that upset him more than anything else was just feeling different, so having the technology in the gadgetry that normalises it was hugely important for him.

"And it meant the best benefit for us as parents was that we could sleep again at night. Hurrah."

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