Imagine if every day the first thing you did when you woke up was poke your finger to draw blood; then the next thing you did was deliver insulin into your body through an insulin pump. Then, when you ate breakfast, you had to carefully calculate how many carbohydrates you were ingesting.
For type 1 diabetics, like me, this is not just a morning routine, but something we do throughout the day. We constantly prick our fingers with a small lancing device and use the blood drawn to figure out what our “blood sugar” level is, words that mean just what they sound like, the amount of glucose in the blood.
We store a small amount of blood in a monitor that gives us a reading of the level of our blood glucose. If the number is too high, we administer a small amount of insulin, the hormone produced by the pancreas that opens up blood cells for glucose absorption, just under our skin, via insulin pump, insulin pen or syringe. If the reading is too low, we need to quickly eat simple sugar in order to replenish the glucose in our blood.
Both high and low blood sugars lead to serious complications, including loss of eyesight, loss of limbs, kidney failure, even death; but, if maintained properly, these complications can be avoided.
I was 4 years old when I was first diagnosed, but many other people who I know with type 1 diabetes have had it since they were much younger. It is unknown what causes type 1 diabetes, and there are several theories, such as environment or genetics, but the disease is still not fully understood.
However, I’m very fortunate to live in Missoula, as we have a great team of diabetes specialists at Community Medical Center. Among them is the person currently helping me with my senior project, diabetes nurse educator Janice Tate, whom I’ve known since I was first diagnosed.
As part of my senior project, I am working with Tate to raise type 1 diabetes awareness. As part of that, I am coordinating the youth activities for the 23rd annual Diabetes Workshop at Community Medical Center on Saturday, April 20. I am also forming a team for the annual Diabetes Walkathon the next day at Dornblaser Field. I’ve also been working with Tate to set up a mentoring program for children with diabetes.
While it may seem like a scary thing, type 1 diabetes can be a relatively easy to live with, if managed properly. Constant blood sugar checks and insulin injections might seem like a lot to people on the outside, but to kids like me with type 1, it’s just a part of life, and not necessarily a bad part. I, and many other people whom I know with type 1, lead extraordinary lives; it doesn’t slow me down. If anything, it encourages me to live a healthy life. I exercise regularly, watch what I eat, and manage my blood sugar levels with care.
So that’s my story – I’m just a regular Montana boy. I hunt, fish and camp; type 1 diabetes doesn’t define anyone.
Austin Rogers is a senior at Hellgate High School and is a patient of the Community Medical Center Diabetes Endocrine Education Program.