Angee Acquin dreams one day of being a little old woman with traditional regalia and shawls hanging over head in her tent, her grandchildren running around and laughing in her home in St. Mary’s. But the 41-year-old youth support worker now worries that may not be the case because her kidney is only functioning at 12 per cent after 15 years living with Type 1 diabetes.
Diabetes is a blood sugar disease that has ravaged First Nation communities. Diabetes Canada says First Nation people are three to five times more like to suffer from the glucose level disease.
Enter her mom, who has started an awareness campaign on Angee’s behalf by selling hoodies that dare people to “Be a Superhero Donate a Kidney.” There are already 50 in circulation.
“My mom wants to see her baby better,” said Acquin, who has been overwhelmed by the amount of people who are willing to go through the screening process to see if they are a match.
Acquin’s father died from complications related to Type 1 diabetes.
“I want to feel better, she says. “I was scared because Dad was walking and talking one Saturday and by the end day he had total organ failure.
She said her resilience comes out because she doesn’t let it get her down. She’d rather make people laugh and feel comfortable, but it comes off too casual at times and so people don’t think she’s that sick. But now the gravity of the situation is starting to set in.
Acquin, who will soon start dialysis, is hoping a new kidney will help get her way of life go back to normal. She’s extremely fatigued because diabetes affects the blood flow and sometimes can damage internal organs. Three years ago Acquin had a massive heart attack.
Acquin is a Wolstaq woman born and raised in Fredericton but now owns a home in St. Mary’s First Nation. She’s an activist, a traditional singer and works as a support worker at Devon middle school with at risk First Nations youth.
“If you sit them down and talk them through it they can get through most problems,” said Acquin.
She said the job is both heartbreaking and fulfilling. Acquin says some students have to deal with parents struggling with substance and alcohol abuse problems and some don’t have running water. But the reward is watching them grow into young adults and learn how to deal with issues on their own.
“I wish I could take them all in forever,” said Acquin.
She wants to be healthy again to continue in her activism and helping the kids. Acquin said she worked for years educating people about diabetes and healthcare but now she’s dealing with it.
“I never really had problems with anything else. Myy body was like go big or go home have a massive heart attack, need a kidney,” said Acquin with a smile.