Danielle, age 17, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was three years old. “I felt scared and did not know what to think. I was not aware of what it meant to be diabetic, but I had a feeling I was going to have it for a long time…” she said. Although she did not find it difficult to adjust because she was diagnosed at such an early age, Danielle’s lifestyle does interfere with her daily activities.
“I have to watch what I eat and make sure I am always putting some sort of exercise in my day, even if I do not want to. At school, if I am to take a test, I [have] to test my blood sugar to see if I am able to concentrate only on the test because if my sugar is too high I need to [take] insulin and wait [until] my sugar is back down to take the test. But if my sugar is low I need to go to the nurse and get a snack to bring my sugar back up to the right sugar, so I won’t be falling asleep while I am taking the test.”
Danielle is aware of the complications that can come from not managing her diabetes. “My mom passed away because she did not take care of her diabetes and went into a diabetic coma,” she said. Like her, her sister also suffered from diabetes. “My older sister had a pancreas and kidney transplant. She had kidney failure because of her high blood sugars and she was close to dying so she was put on a transplant list in Phoenix, Arizona. She also got a pancreas as well which is why she is no longer diabetic and is doing much better…”
Blood sugar monitoring is a vital part of treating diabetes and it can save a person’s life. Danielle herself has experienced complications due to unstable blood sugar levels. “I have gone into diabetic reactions [when] my blood sugar goes way too low and I am unconscious. I have gone into DKA [or] diabetic ketoacidosis [when] my blood sugars were way too high and we were not able to get them back down,” Danielle said.
In situations like these she stresses it is important to remain calm. “The thing to know is that you should not panic if your friend is right next to you and faints…find someone who knows what to do…look in their bag, see what sugar you can find… Sugar is the most important thing to get into the body if [glucose] is too low… whatever you do, don’t panic,” Danielle recommended.
She also encourages people who know someone with diabetes to help through positive support by accompanying them to the doctor or to tests. “[Help your] friends out if they need it, give them smart advice and encourage them along the way …” Most importantly, Danielle believes the best way to help a friend with diabetes is to be normal. “Treat them as you do everyone else. Don’t change just because you found out something new about them, unless they need your help.”
As a young girl with diabetes, Danielle says it’s important to be optimistic if you or someone you know has been diagnosed with the disease. “[Don’t] be down and depressed about it because, yes it puts stress on you, but I mean, you’re still living life, if you take care of yourself you will grow old and be able to see you kids, grandkids, and great grandkids grow.”