November 12, 2019
I was 13 years old when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Looking back, there were some signs before my diagnosis. Once I had to step out of basketball practice because I felt shaky and sick, then my vision went almost dark. I started to get headaches just about every day. I was always so thirsty, but I thought it was no big deal when my mother said she’d never seen anyone drink so much liquid.
One night at a friend’s house I couldn’t sleep because I was so thirsty. When my mother picked me up early the next morning, I told her I felt sick and she let me stay home from school. By the time she got home from work I’d gone through several liters of soda and water. She took me to the doctor, and when they did a blood sugar test, it only read ‘HHH’ - my blood sugar was so high it didn’t register. My doctor checked my urine sample and told us I had type 1 diabetes. She sent us directly to the hospital, telling us not to even go home and pack first.
The next week was a tough one for my mother and me. I was in the hospital for six days, getting insulin and more tests. We had to learn a lot about dealing with the disease: how to test my blood sugar, inject insulin, manage my diet, count carbs and react to emergency situations. I admit I was plenty angry and wondered why this had to happen to me.
The diabetes diagnosis really changed my life in many ways. I was used to eating what I wanted, and that stopped. My plan had been to go into the military to help with a college education, but that was out because of diabetes. It was a juggling act to get my two insulins correctly managed, and my blood sugar would often get either very low or very dangerously high. I had to start carrying the testing equipment, syringes and insulin with me at all times. I could still play sports, but I had to have sugar tabs with me and watch my blood sugar. Stomach bugs meant a trip to the ER, because my blood sugar would be thrown way off.
One time I was very sick and went into DKA, diabetic ketoacidosis, because there wasn’t enough insulin in my body. That was scary, and I stayed in the ICU for several days.
Even several years later, it’s not always smooth sailing. At any job, I have to use sick days and still make trips to the ER at times. That’s one reason I feel blessed to be working at Wilson Bank & Trust. They’ve been willing to work with me as I deal with the disease, and I’ve really appreciated that my manager would check on me when I went through periods of sickness. It’s a great feeling to know my employer really cares about me as a person, and even though I’ve felt people making an effort in past jobs, I haven’t witnessed anything like the support I have here. I don’t like to rely on others for my disease, but sometimes that can’t be avoided, and my co-workers always have my back anytime I’ve needed them, like the process of getting adjusted to a new insulin pump that I’ve been working through lately.
On top of the constant support, I recently had a chance through the bank to help fight my disease head on: when our office supported a diabetes walk, I was able to represent WBT at the event. I really enjoyed meeting other diabetics, and talking about the impact diabetes has made on our lives. It made me feel special that the bank wanted me there to make a difference because of my personal experience.
It can be a challenge to stay on top of my diabetes while working full time and going to school, and sometimes physical symptoms still remind me how dangerous the disease can be. A diabetes diagnosis is a lifelong challenge, but I’m hoping that a cure will be discovered in my lifetime. For now, I try to own my condition without letting the disease define me. There are many other things in life that could be a lot worse, and I am very thankful for some of the ways the disease has forced me to change, like living a healthier lifestyle and growing as a person.