Every year on November 14, my daughter asks me to post something from her on facebook to commemorate World Diabetes Day. This year, she has asked if she can use the Straight Blogged platform to share her story. Please enjoy:
Welcome to my Jr. Hooker guest blog post! This comes in honor of November 14th, Doctor Fredrick Banning’s birthday, the man who saved millions of lives by figuring out how to take Porcine (pig) and Canine (dog) pancreatic glands and synthesizing them into insulin. About 40 years later, other scientists were able to create synthetic insulin, but Dr. Banning is the reason I’m alive today.
I was diagnosed in 2008, near my 7th birthday. For over a week, I had been drinking excessive amounts of fluids and using the bathroom every fifteen minutes, gleaning concern from my parents; so on Monday, March 6th, my mom decided it was time to see a doctor.
We lived in a small mountain town at the time, so we went to the tiny urgent care where I was bombarded by doctors and tests. I don’t remember much (it was VERY traumatic), but I recall being wheeled on a gurney, a lot of needles, and a small digital screen in my face that read two letters, “HI”. I would later come to know this as a glucose meter, and the letters meant my blood sugar was above 600 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). A person with a functioning pancreas has a blood sugar of 80mg/dl to 120mg/dl. My mom wanted to lift my spirits, so she showed me the meter and said, “Look! It’s saying ‘hi’ to you!”
My mom was told I had Type One Diabetes, and I should go to the big hospital a city over. I spent the next three days in a hospital bed learning that I no longer made the hormone insulin, which metabolizes carbohydrates and sugar into energy. This meant the sugar was pooling into my blood and my body was trying desperately to compensate and keep me alive by flushing anything I ingested, which explained all the fluid intake and bathroom use. (All of this, of course, was explained using 6-year-old friendly words, referring to insulin as a “key” that unlocked my energy). I was also told a had to poke my finger and get shots multiple times a day.
“Can’t I just drink it?” I recall asking the doctor. Well, no, but based on the distinct smell, I’m very glad I don’t take it orally.
Before leaving the hospital, I was given Rufus the Diabetic bear, a cuddly teddy bear with overalls, a JDRF shirt, a Diabetic medical bracelet, and colorful felt patches where insulin shots and finger pricks go. I was allowed to give him saline shots and ‘check his blood’ along side my own to help me adjust and feel less scared. I ADORED that bear and slept with him every night for longer than I’d like to admit. Over the years, he lost all his clothes, his bracelet, and his fuzzy-ness, but it never mattered. Unfortunately, I recently lost him, but he brought me years of joy.
Returning to school was a lot harder that I ever thought it would be. I had a lot of friends prior to my diagnoses, and they had all sent me so many notes and gifts, so I thought nothing would change. Unfortunately, as I said, I lived in a tiny mountain town, so there was no one else there with T1D, and the only knowledge of Diabetes was preconceived type two notions; so, after telling all the kids in my class what I had, I was practically abandoned. Don’t feel bad, it made me stronger and let me know who my real friends were, and I was seven, so I’m not forever messed up due to some uneducated children. The most common answers to questions were “no, you can’t catch it,” “No, I didn’t eat a lot of candy,” and “wow, thank you for noticing I’m not fat. I see you aren’t so bad either.” Okay, that last one is a more spiteful one I’d give today 😊.
It took a few months, a couple of kid’s picture books, and a lot of patience, but eventually everything went back to normal, and I was the cool kid who brought (diet) soda and cheesy healthy snacks on my birthday, instead of cupcakes like everyone else. I never stopped doing the things I love, (especially school plays) and I (almost) never feel sorry for myself. This is my life, and I’m still living, not just surviving. In recent years, cool technology has come out that have made managing my diabetes so much easier, like a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) that has almost made checking my blood obsolete, and I can see what my blood sugar is doing in real time. My Insulin pump has given me the ability to avoid shots EVERY time I eat (and a lot of math), and I am, in my mom’s words, “pretty much bionic”, so that’s pretty cool.
This was fun, perhaps I will show up with some Diabetes anecdotes (that have a lighter tone) at some point.
In the Straight Hooked shop, I make T1D ribbon hats, and a portion of the price goes directly to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, who look to find a cause, cure, and incredible technology in between. You can see the amazing things they are doing here.