Coping with Type 1 Diabetes – It’s All in the Plan
Melanie Conant, diabetes care coordinator at Indian Health Care Resource Center, knows first-hand how the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes affects a family. Her son, Josh Conant, was diagnosed at the age of 6.
“Our family life changed dramatically,” Melanie said. “Everything was focused on his blood sugar. What did the meter say?”
Josh remembers thinking he would have to give up eating his cherished corndogs and playing soccer, but he learned to make the adjustments in his care need for both.
“When another kid would walk me to the nurse,” Josh said, “they would sometimes see me get stabbed with a shot. They didn’t understand. Di-a-bet-es. Kids thought I was going to die. They thought I was contagious.”
Fortunately, Oklahoma state law allows students to check their glucose levels in the classroom, reducing the amount of time spent outside the classroom to monitor glucose.
The number one strategy for coping with diabetes, Melanie says, is making a plan to manage the disease. “Do tests, eat on a routine, stay in control, take your meds,” she said, “and they [people with diabetes] can live, and get on with their lives.”
Josh, now 12, began to have symptoms at age 6. Melanie noticed that on a Cub Scout campout, he was going to the bathroom six times at night. “He was also excessively thirsty,” Melanie said.
When Josh was taken to his pediatrician, his blood glucose was in the 400 range, four times what is normal.
Josh’s parents were immediately put in contact with Dr. David Jelley, a pediatric endocrinologist. They were given a crash course in how to manage type 1 diabetes, including a two-day seminar covering glucose testing, carbohydrate counting, insulin injections and how to plan for physical activity.
As soon as Josh’s glucose levels were stabilized, he was put on a “child friendly” insulin pump at age 7. “The pump was kid-friendly and waterproof,” Josh said. “It was a lot easier for me to use.”
Today, Josh is a very active 12-year-old as well as an outstanding student. He participates in scouting, soccer, refereeing and basketball. He knows how to make adjustments in his insulin, and how adrenalin and exercise affect his glucose level.
Like a good scout, Josh is always prepared. “Type 1 diabetes won’t be hard if you take care of it,” he said. “Look ahead. It’s like a roller coaster.”
Josh is even prepared for the Oklahoma tornado season. In severe weather we grabs his diabetes kit in addition to his shoes.
“It’s kind of like a war,” Josh said. “Once you get in control, hurdle after hurdle gets smaller.”
Melanie and Josh recently returned from a trip to Washington, D.C. As part of the American Diabetes Association’s “Call to Congress,” they had the opportunity to speak with members of Congress about funding at the National Institute of Health for diabetes research.
“If we can get the word out, we can make a difference,” Josh said.
As for the future, Josh is aiming at playing collegiate soccer at his favorite school – the University of Notre Dame.
“We heard from the coach there,” Melanie said. “It is the grades that will get him into the school. He can play soccer with his diabetes.”
FACTS ON DIABETES:
- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the beta cells in the pancreas no longer produce insulin
- 5-10% of all diagnosed diabetics are type 1
- 1 in 3 babies born today will develop diabetes in their lifetime (both types)
- 25.8 million Americans have diabetes
- 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes
- The total cost of diabetes in America is estimated to be $174 billion
SYMPTOMS AND WARNING SIGNS OF TYPE 1 DIABETES:
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Dry, itchy skin
- Tingling or burning in extremities
- Irritability, depression
- Frequent infections (urinary tract, yeast infections)
- Slow healing of cuts and bruises