Saturday, June 18, 2011

Red Team: From Pricks to Pump

By Kaitlin Collison, Nilaja King, and Megg Rowjohn

After her daughter was tired and cranky and using the bathroom more than usual, Bobbi Johnson’s mother knew something was wrong with her baby.


“I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was two years old, and I’m 27 years old now, so I've had it for 25 years,” Johnson said as part of a panel on diabetes. “The doctor said I was a diabetic from the time I was born.”

Instead of a childhood filled with cakes and sweets, Johnson was surrounded by needle injections and carb counts.

Before insulin, diabetes was a death sentence. Evident since 1552 BC, diabetes treatment has developed continuously over centuries of research and hard work. Archaic treatments included overeating and other home remedies.

“It actually accelerated the disease because you have more sugar on board,” said Dr. Todd Brusko, assistant professor of pathology and diabetes researcher at the University of Florida.

Since then, research has proved that insulin is the best way to control the epidemic, although it is not a cure.

“Insulin and these monitoring devices will never be as good as a normally functioning pancreas, “ Dr. Brusko said.

Johnson administered her own insulin shots at six years old, a shocking but inspiring experience for her aunt who also has type 1 diabetes. As years progressed, the number of shots decreased gradually, from 10 to four a day.

Johnson now sports an automatic pump that distributes insulin when needed.

While still having to calculate carbs before every meal, the pump consumes less of Johnson’s time, allowing her to live a life free of needle injections. Compared to the complications of prodding needles and sore fingers, the Omnipod pump is wireless, waterproof and pain-free.

“Basically I just calculate the amount of carbs that I take for breakfast, lunch and dinner, even snack time, and program it into my device and my device will automatically let me know how much insulin I need to take,” she said

The University of Florida is the cutting edge of diabetes research, while the cure is not yet in sight, hope prevails. While a cure would be phenomenal for most, Johnson wouldn’t give up the disease.

“I’ve had it for twenty five years -- that's all I know,” she said. “If you were to take that away from me, I’d have nothing left.”

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