In January 2012, Lady Jubie Wigan’s daughter, Aliena, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of two-and-a-half. Aliena had been displaying symptoms of an insatiable appetite, unquenchable thirst and frequent bed wetting. The GP sent Aliena to A&E where she was admitted to the Critical Paediatric Unit and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The diagnosis turned Jubie’s life upside-down as the family learned how to deal with the unrelenting routine of blood glucose checks and insulin injections.
Launching Sugarplum Children
Shortly after Aliena’s diagnosis, Jubie, who is the daughter of the Earl of Balfour, launched Sugarplum Children. Her motto has always been ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’. Sugarplum Children has two aims: to raise money for type 1 diabetes research, through the type 1 charity JDRF, and raise awareness about type 1 diabetes.
Galvanising her friends and supporters, Jubie has now hosted four Sugarplum fundraising dinners (every other year from 2013-2019) with celebrities and high-profile guests, including now JDRF Ambassador, The Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Jeremy Irvine and James Norton (who all live with the condition) as well as Pippa Middleton, Julian Fellowes, Florence Welch, and Mark Ronson. Sugarplum Children has also sold an exclusive Sugarplum pendant designed by Annoushka Ducas MBE, and organised the Sugarplum Dog Walk – an idea that came from Aliena herself. In November 2021 Jubie and a team of 11 women, six of whom are either living with type 1 or have a child or family member living with it, or affected by type 1 diabetes, raised over £70,000 on a 100km trek through Wadi Rum in Jordan.
To date, Sugarplum Children has raised over £3 million. In recognition of her charitable work, Jubie was awarded the Point of Light in 2016 by the then Prime Minister Theresa May, which recognises outstanding individual volunteers who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.
Starting to use type 1 diabetes technology
10 years on from her diagnosis Aliena now uses an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor and is due to start on the artificial pancreas in the spring, which she will access through the NHS. Jubie has always raised money for type research and treatments, particularly research into the artificial pancreas.
The artificial pancreas uses an algorithm to automatically deliver insulin from a pump based on readings from a continuous glucose monitor. In programming and delivering insulin as needed minute to minute, the technology can significantly lift the burden of managing type 1 diabetes.
For Jubie, this is the power and impact of her fundraising work: Aliena and hundreds of thousands of other people living with type 1 stand to benefit from the artificial pancreas, research which has been supported and realised through Sugarplum and JDRF fundraising.
On 11 January Jubie will be marking the 100 anniversary from when the first human life was saved as a result of the discovery of insulin. Jubie will be marking ten years since Aliena’s discovery and celebrating how research becomes reality with her daughter set to be treated with the artificial pancreas on the NHS.