(Not so) Fun with Type 1
Written by Kaylin Stiefer
Wake and Check
Beep, beep, beep!
My fingers tap my phone until the alarm stops. I roll over, turn on my lamp and grab my test kit. The poker presses against my ring finger and I prick it. A single drop of blood appears on the pad of my finger. As I wait for the results, I pray my blood sugar is in good range. 146. Not bad.
A little more than eight years ago, my mom took me to the hospital. She suspected I had Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system attacks the beta cells within the pancreas so it is no longer able to produce insulin, and therefore, there is more glucose in the blood. She tested my blood sugar with my younger brother’s test kit and it came back high. Later on, while lying in the hospital and my doctor gave my mom the final diagnosis, she started crying. She couldn’t believe it. Both of her children had Type 1 diabetes. A newly diagnosed one at 12-years-old and a four-year veteran at 10.
I test my blood sugar, on average, five times a day. A healthy person’s blood sugar dwells in the 80 to 115 milligrams/deciliter range. When my blood sugar drops below 80, I start to feel shaky, dizzy and hungry. I turn slightly pale and lack coordination. This is hypoglycemia. Usually, it’s a result of taking too much insulin or exercising. I must take quick sugar, such as juice or glucose tablets, to raise it. If my blood sugar spikes above 240 milligrams/deciliter, I have a headache, nausea, extreme thirst and blurry vision. This is hyperglycemia. I have to give insulin to lower it.
Pump It Up
I set my breakfast in front of myself. Eggs, bacon, toast and milk. My mind skips over the eggs and bacon, they don’t have any carbohydrates in them. My mind sees numbers stamped on the toast and glass of milk. Fifteen for toast and 20 for milk. I enter the amount of carbs in my insulin pump and it starts pumping away.
Every three days I change my pump site. A small tube inserts into my body, whether that be on the stomach, thighs, glutes or arms, and a cord connects to my pump where the insulin is stored. I enter the amount of carbohydrates I am eating and my current blood sugar level and the pump calculates exactly how much insulin I need. I use the pump instead of the draining task of giving myself five to eight shots every day.
About three million people are living with the daily challenges of Type 1 in the United States, according to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. About 10 percent of diabetics have Type 1, the other 90 percent are Type 2 diabetics. The body still produces insulin in a Type 2 diabetic, but the cells don’t properly use glucose so there is a buildup in the blood.
Why am I High?
Something is off. Sitting in class I feel annoyingly thirsty and nauseous at the same time. I prick my finger, again. 338. Where did this come from? I’m sure I gave insulin for the food I ate. Did I miss something? Did my insulin go bad? Is my pump site faulty?
Every single day is different with diabetes. I could do the same exact thing two days in a row and come up with opposite numbers. Many things can affect blood sugars such as exercise, illness, food, hormones, stress — the list is endless. The simplest things, like eating or playing sports, become a calculated process with adding carbohydrates or adjusting your blood sugar to avoid going high or low.
My feet pound on the grassy field, as my heart pounds with them. I can feel the shaking and the weakness coming on. I run over to my bag on the sidelines and place my lacrosse stick down. I look to my coach and yell “blood sugar!” He nods. I prick my finger, for the fifth time that day. 56. Not good. My head feels fuzzy. I fumble for a juice box in my bag and chug it while collapsed on the ground, exhausted. My body craves more sugar. I want to give in but I know my blood sugar will spike afterward if I do.
I feel as though my body has betrayed me. My own body attacked my pancreas and left it without its job: to produce insulin. So I am forced to do it. Forced to account for every piece of food I eat. Forced to poke my body with needles on a daily basis. Diabetes is for life and until a cure is found, I have a 24/7 job to do.