By: Alexandra Booth and Delaina McEwen, red team
Bryan Conrad, a 34-year-old orthopedic professor at the University of Florida, says when he sees someone with a blood glucose monitor like his own, he feels akin to them even if they are a complete stranger.
“It’s a club and you kind of connect with people,” he said.
In a community of people, they all deal with the same disease - type 1 diabetes - even though they lead different lives.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when a person’s immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin, a hormone produced by beta cells needed to move glucose to the blood cells. Because there is no cure, shots are given to replace patients’ lack of insulin.
Most cases are identified between the ages of one and four. However, in some cases, people develop the symptoms later in their adulthood.
Conrad was diagnosed with the disease three years ago. He became very thirsty, was losing a lot of weight, and made frequent trips to the bathroom. Conrad knew the symptoms of diabetes after his sister was diagnosed with it 15 years earlier.
His sister tested his blood sugar, which was off the charts.
For treatment, Conrad used to give himself insulin injections and tested his blood sugar whenever he ate. He currently uses an insulin pump that is attached to him which inserts an amount of insulin he needs depending on how many carbs he eats.
His family gives support throughout this journey. Since his mother is a nurse, she was able to learn more about the disease to first help his sister and now him. If he has a question, he can turn to his mother or sister for advice. To make things interesting, he and his sister compete to see who has the better glucose levels.
Similarly, Janey Adams, a 15-year-old high school student, was also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She spent two days in the hospital at UF, where her blood sugar was 400.
“From there, it changed everything,” she said.
Also, Adams would check her blood sugar and give herself insulin shots. Now, she uses an Omni pod, which attaches to her and through a wireless monitor, she inputs the amount of insulin she needs.
Adams and her family really didn’t know about diabetes, and it came as a big shock. Everyone helped out along the way and learned together.
Bobbi Johnson’s family had a long experience with diabetes. Johnson said many of her relatives suffer from the disease, including both of her grandparents.
Johnson said her mother, who was a nurse, learned as much about diabetes when Bobbi was diagnosed as a two-year-old. Johnson now is a 27-year-old lab researcher that studies epidemiology.
“This is the only life I’ve ever known,” she said.