Saturday, June 18, 2011

Red Team: Diabetes Patients Cope for Life

By Lauren Kandell, Stoneman Douglas High School

Cheyenne Hill, Braden River High School

Haley Gonzalez, Wharton High School

Kieran McGrail receives an error message after his glucose meter fails to read his blood sugar level. So the University of Florida Diabetes research lab manager pricks his finger again, and again. Though McGrail does not have Diabetes, this example shows the constant difficulties faced by diabetics from the day they are diagnosed, and for the rest of their lives.

One in 300 people develop Type 1 Diabetes, an autoimmune disease, before the age of 20, forcing them to develop coping methods for maintaining a steady insulin level in order to live the most average life possible with the disease.

“One time, I was eating lunch [at school] and I went to give myself a shot and one of the teachers that was in the lunchroom at the moment saw me and he walked over to see what I was doing,” 15-year-old Janey Adams said, who was diagnosed at age 14. “My friend [said], ‘oh, she has Diabetes, she can do that.’”

Adams informs all her teachers of her disease, who then allow her to check her levels and manage her insulin freely throughout the school day.

Diabetes patients must track the amounts of carbohydrates in everything they consume and insert the amount into their monitors, which then produce the amount of insulin necessary for keeping patients healthy.

If the disease is not properly maintained, patients can develop heart, kidney, eye, or nerve disease. Other complications such as hyperglycemia and strokes can also result from insufficient care, leading to amputations and possibly death.

University of Florida third year graduate student Dustin Blanton, works every day with his wife, Laurie, in order to make her life with Type 1 Diabetes as easy as possible. He reflects on the difficulties she faces, wanting to mindlessly eat without the stress of injecting herself with insulin.

“Diabetes never takes a break,” Blanton said. “The constant discipline needed to maintain this process wears a lot on a person psychologically.”

The recent invention of the OmniPod Pump provides a wireless alternative to manual insulin injections. Twenty-seven-year-old Bobbi Johnson, who was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age two, recently switched to the pump, and since then her life has changed drastically. She began giving herself insulin shots since the age of six, so the new mechanism provided great relief, though it still has to be managed multiple times per week.

Though insulin does not address the underlying causes of Diabetes, it does make the disease more manageable and lower chances of side effects and further complications later in life.

Raising awareness in people worldwide, as McGrail demonstrated with his finger prick, is seen as the most effective step toward discovering a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

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