Diabetes - From One Teen's Perspective
My last blog was written from the perspective of a first-year medical student shadowing me in my diabetes practice. She was most emotionally affected by one of my very young patients. These young patients grow up to be young adults who remain in my practice for many years hopefully until they are college graduates. There have been many comments on my blogs; however, very few have been written from the perspective of children, adolescents, or young adults. I have tried to convey their thoughts, challenges, and successes in multiple blog entries, but despite my attempts to transcribe my patients’ experiences with diabetes, I cannot fully empathize with their day-to-day experiences. So, when I meet with these young people, I often ask them to transcribe their thoughts on paper and share them with me, and sometimes they actually do. One young man has been in my practice for many years and took me up on my offer. I have received permission from him and his family to publish his remarks today. I think it is important for readers of healthcentral.com many of whom are people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes to be able to read and empathize with both the young and older people who share this ubiquitous diagnosis. As such, I intend to try to offer different perspectives among my vast practice, ranging from infants to college students. One such young man-a high school student-sent me his thoughts over the Christmas break, and I thought his remarks would be an excellent follow up to my previous blog from a medical student point-of-view.
_ I’m Anthony Jablonowski, and I__‘d like to share my life with and advice about diabetes with you. I’_m 15, and I was diagnosed with T1 when I was 13-months-old.
_ My life with diabetes is one hard game. I can remember when I was at a children__‘s hospital in Germany for two weeks when I was diagnosed. My blood sugar was over 900; very bad. It wasn’_t fun there until I was good to go home finally. Our regimen requires that my blood sugar is checked seven times a day including once overnight.
Later on when I was 10-years-old, my blood sugar dropped one time to 37, which was the lowest level I_‘ve ever been. My mom and I decided it was time for me to start learning how to manage diabetes on my own. I began injecting my insulin, checking my blood sugars, counting carbs, and doing what a person with diabetes should be doing. Of course, I was little at that time, and I still had a lot to learn, but it doesn’t mean you can’_t start learning more about your condition at this age.
At 12 years, PE class began to be a big challenge. There are exercises at certain intensity levels and certain times that I wasn_’_t ready for. But then in 8th grade, I started improving my knowledge about diabetes and fitness. Long story short: if you manage diabetes well and help find solutions, it will be a very giant accomplishment
_ Diabetes adds on to responsibilities a normal person would have every day. Before eating, you have to remember to check your blood sugar. Exercise or stress can affect your blood sugars, so remember to hold back insulin before exercising or add insulin for anything stressful. (Playing Xbox usually stresses me out.) If you are in school and in a PE class, full attention is highly recommended for managing diabetes well, as well as executing decisions._
_ I have seen other people with diabetes and how they manage it-some experts, some intermediate. There was once a kid in school who was intermediate, and he was frightened and depressed. He kept thinking about the future like: "what if there will never be a cure for diabetes?" This is an example of something no_ person with diabetes should ever think about. My plan of action was to calm him down and help him be more positive. After two weeks, his attitude improved, and he has been getting better ever since.
_ There are times with diabetes when positive moments and negative moments start to exist. When there are negative moments, you learn to recover or improve. When there are positive moments, it__’_s a sign of how great you are doing! Just hold on and wait for the best to come, especially when they find the cure!
Anthony is a very optimistic, “can-do” sort of guy. He is competitive, wishes to keep his A1c as low as possible, and therefore, makes my job a pleasure as he is willing to collaborate with me regarding his care. This is not always the case in many of my adolescent or young adult patients who present a different kind of challenge. In Anthony’s case, I am required to provide information and strategies in order for him to consistently and successfully manage his diabetes.
Happy New Year, everyone.
Fran Cogen, M.D., C.D.E., is the director of the Childhood and Adolescent Diabetes Program at Children’s National Health System. She wrote about diabetes for HealthCentral.