Life with diabetes since the age of four

My name is William. I am 14 years old and have been living with Type 1 diabetes since I was 4 years old. Diabetes is a life threatening disease. Let me tell you about the disease and living life with it.

There are three main types of diabetes; Type 1 diabetes where the pancreas produces no insulin, Type 2 diabetes where the pancreas produces some insulin but the subject is insulin resistant for a variety of reasons, and Gestational diabetes which occurs in pregnant women. There are also a variety of other forms of diabetes, but they are less common and in many cases quite rare. Insulin is the hormone that delivers glucose or sugar from the food you have digested to your cells for energy. If you have too much insulin in your system the insulin will remove too much sugar from your blood. If you do not have enough insulin your blood sugar will be too high.
Having Type 1 diabetes impacts everything I do, whether it might be eating, exercising or even sleeping; however, thanks to many technological and medical breakthroughs, it does not prevent me from doing anything that anyone without diabetes can do. For example, many people think that having diabetes means that you are not allowed to eat anything you want or do anything you want. This is false. I can still go to parties and eat whatever I want. I am also training for a 200km bike race in June.

In order to manage my diabetes I rely on a variety of tools in my toolbox. The first tool is my glucose meter. I use it from 5-7 times a day to measure the level of sugar in my blood. Normally I would test myself before I eat, before and after any exercise and before bed. Insulin needs to be injected beneath my skin so that it can be absorbed by my body. I use an insulin pump which is permanently connected to a catheter located under my skin. Most other Type 1 diabetics use needles. Type 2 diabetics may be able to ingest insulin orally and soon by vapour; however, these methods are not nearly as accurate as injections. I also carry (or have close by) an emergency case that contains spare equipment for my glucose meter and my pump, a backup set of needles in case my pump fails, spare insulin, a ketone meter, and some form of emergency sugar such as juice or glucose tablets to raise my blood sugar if I am low and more particularly a glucagon needle (similar to an epi-pen) as an emergency (life threatening) source of sugar to be administered if I am comatose and cannot eat or drink normal sugar. Finally I would usually have a medic alert necklace or bracelet on me at all times. Look for these items when you are dealing with a diabetic undergoing some form of emergency.

There are two types of episodes that may affect a diabetic. The first is low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and the second is high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). If a diabetic’s blood glucose level goes too low or too high the diabetic could die. Whenever you are delivering emergency aid to a diabetic whether for a diabetic episode or any other form of emergency it would be prudent to check their blood sugar as soon as you can. Low blood sugar exhibits many symptoms that would be similar to shock, but the treatments are different. The key indicators of hypoglycemia are weakness in arm and leg muscles, lethargy, impaired mental functions, irritability, shaking, twitching, sweating and finally loss of consciousness leading eventually to death. The signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia are shiny eyes, frequent urination, frequent drinking (water), irritability, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and fruity-scented breath. At this point the normal body functions such as kidneys and liver become negatively impacted and if left untreated the patient will likely die.

Though low blood sugar can be treated with sugar (a juice box or a can or regular pop will usually to the job) and high blood sugar can be brought down by injecting more insulin, it is very important that EMS knows that the sick person is diabetic. Many of the diabetic symptoms are similar to those symptoms that would be exhibited by a non-diabetic patient in shock or suffering from internal bleeding or poisoning.

I manage my diabetes very well, but many people do not. The most important part when treating someone with diabetes is to stay calm, like you would for any other patient.