It is a parent’s greatest fear for their child to become sick. Almost 16 years ago, my daughter at the age of seven became very sick, very suddenly. I will never forget, it was the day before Halloween and she had to be picked up from school. As soon as I saw her the fear came over me; I knew something was very wrong. Little did I know she had been stricken with a disease that would affect the rest of her life. The doctor diagnosed it before he even examined her. He could smell it on her breath, the sweetness; she had type 1 diabetes. The tests confirmed it; her sugar level was so high that it would not even register on a glucose meter that would take a reading of up to 900 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter). A non-diabetic person’s normal blood sugar level would be between 80 to 120 mg/dl but hers was so high that she was experiencing ketoacidosis, an extremely dangerous condition that leads to a diabetic coma and eventually death if left untreated. There are many changes a type 1 diabetic has to deal with once diagnosed but it is vital to have a treatment plan that consists of these three things they must do on a daily basis to stay alive: take insulin, check their blood sugar levels, and count carbohydrates.
Before moving on, I would like to provide a few facts about type 1 diabetes so that you will have a better understanding of why the three things I am going to talk about are so vital for a type 1 diabetic. According to the JDRF website, formally known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, last accessed on March 15, 2013, on the web page titled Type 1 Diabetes Facts:
• Type 1 diabetes is generally diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults
• Doctors do not know the exact cause of type 1 diabetes but they believe that genetics do play a role and that some type of virus may trigger it causing the body’s own immune system to mistakenly destroy the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin
• Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that results in the pancreas not producing enough insulin or no insulin at all because most or all of the beta cells that produce insulin have been destroyed
• Insulin helps the body convert glucose (sugar) from food to energy or nutrients for the cells
• When the beta cells are destroyed there is not enough or no insulin to covert the glucose, leading to high levels of sugar in the blood which causes major damage to organs and can lead to death if not treated
• Type 1 diabetes can be managed but it cannot be prevented and as of yet there is no cure
The first thing I would like to inform you about and the most important part of a treatment plan is that a type 1 diabetic must take insulin everyday of their lives, without it they will die. The Mayo Clinic, being a non-profit worldwide leader in medical care, research, and education, provides detailed information of the types of insulin and how it is given on their web page titled, Type 1 Diabetes, last updated January 2013.
There are three types of insulin rapid-acting, long-acting, and intermediate-acting and they all must be injected into the skin because insulin cannot be ingested. There are three ways in which insulin can be administered:
• Needle and syringe – an exact dosage is drawn from a vial and requires a mixture of insulin (at one point my daughter was taking six shots a day)
• Insulin pen – a device that looks like an ink pen and has a prefilled cartridge of insulin where you can dial the dosage needed (they are easier to carry with you and more discreet)
• Insulin pump – a small device, about the size of a pager, worn on the outside of the body that connects a small tube from the reservoir holding insulin that is inserted under the skin and preprogramed to deliver fast acting insulin to the body 24/7, much like the pancreas does (it is more effective at controlling blood sugar levels than injections).
(Mayo Clinic, 2013)
My daughter was able to get an