“After I was diagnosed, I was in shock. I didn’t understand that much about what diabetes was,” junior Macey Fischer said.
Fischer was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 13, in 2019. “I went to the urgent care for a different problem, and they were running some tests, and they decided to finger prick me,” she said.
Sophomore Bex Derr also has Type 1 diabetes. “I was nine years old [when I was diagnosed], so I was in fourth grade,” Derr said. “I was too young to fully wrap my head around the implications of [the diagnoses.]”
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack the beta cells that produce insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for bringing sugar out of the blood and into other parts of the body, such as the brain.
“Because that bridge is not there, it builds up in your bloodstream,” Nurse Rachel Huertas, RN, said. She explained how a buildup of sugar in the bloodstream can send someone into Diabetic Ketoacidosis, which results in the organs shutting down.
In order to prevent this, those with Type 1 diabetes regularly check their blood sugar levels, using either a finger prick or a continuous glucose monitor. Then they give themselves synthetic insulin, which can be done with an insulin pump or with a shot.
“Someone with Type 1 diabetes would need to check their blood sugar before each meal…and usually before they go to bed,” Huertas said.
A normal level of blood sugar, for diabetics and non-diabetics, would be between 70 and 120. Non-diabetics’ blood sugar fluctuates naturally in that range, depending on what someone eats and how long it’s been since they’ve eaten. For those with Type 1 diabetes, their blood sugar doesn’t regulate itself; they have to manage it themselves.
“I constantly have to be making sure that I’m in a healthy range of blood sugar. I always have to make sure it’s okay because it’s dangerous if it’s not,” Fischer said.
About 0.35% of people under the age of 20 have Type 1 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
“They used to call it Juvenile Diabetes, because it’s usually more diagnosed in younger people, as opposed to Type 2, which is more in older people,” Huertas explained.
“If you have Type 2 diabetes, your body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, the beta cells make extra insulin to make up for it, but over time your pancreas can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar at normal levels,” the ADA said.
“Type 2, if you alter your lifestyle, your eating habits, your lifestyle, there is a potential to get that more under control,” Huertas said, “but for someone that has Type 1, it doesn’t matter how much exercise or healthy eating they do, it’s not going to change the fact that they have Type 1 diabetes.”
Fischer said she was frustrated with people who assume things about her lifestyle. “I’m sick of people, when they hear I have diabetes, being like, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t have eaten so much sugar,’” Fischer said.
“I feel obligated, as a person with Type 1 diabetes, to learn more about Type 2 so I can stand up for those people because we get lumped together a lot,” Derr added.
Those assumptions are only a part of a multitude of ways that diabetes affects day-to-day life, from standardized tests to sports to social lives.
“I get stressed before tests, and especially standardized tests, and my blood sugar will go up, which makes you not feel so good, or sometimes I go low and have to step out, because that affects your brain,” Fischer explained.
“For me, my fine motor skills are really impacted [by low blood sugar],” Derr said. “It makes it hard to write or do precision things with my fingers.”
“And it’s difficult to think when your whole body is trying to stay alive and you can’t focus on the actual task at hand,” Derr explained.
Huertas also said diabetes makes those with it feel different. “It makes you feel different from your peers, and your friends, and you have to give yourself medication every day, in the form of a shot sometimes… and feeling different isn’t always awesome,” Huertas said.
Diabetes can mean having to leave social situations or even school in order to manage it. “A lot of times I have to leave and drink juice if I’m low, or if my insulin pod is low and I have to change it,” Fischer said. “A lot of people don’t understand that, and I have to be like, ‘They don’t understand it and they’re not trying to offend me.’”
Huertas explained that in order to play sports, those that have Type 1 diabetes have to check to make sure their blood sugar is in the correct range to be able to safely do that, or if it’s not, bring a snack. Fischer is a member of the cross country team and runs track. She said that she has to put her insulin pump into exercise mode, and when that isn’t effective, she has to drink a juice to keep her blood sugar up.
“It’s just, it’s something you constantly have to think about that someone without Type 1 diabetes doesn’t have to think about,” Huertas said.
This will be Hadley Hoskin’s first year on ECHO Staff, but she also made several contributions while taking journalism class her sophomore year.