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Don’t sugar coat this

As diabetics in the community deal with their disease each day, they struggle to overcome the challenges it presents

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For most students, blood at the breakfast table is a cause for alarm, but for Type 1 diabetic junior Emma Potthast, it’s simply a part of her daily routine.

As she sits at the table waiting to eat her breakfast, Potthast pricks her finger. After inserting the blood into her glucometer, she waits until it gives her a reading on her blood sugar saying she can safely eat her meal.

For Type 1 diabetics, finger pricks are an occurrence that happen multiple times a day. They need to test their blood sugar levels every time they eat or whenever they feel the slightest bit dazed. “I always need to know my blood sugar levels and know how many carbs I’m eating,” Potthast said.

Without checking blood sugar levels routinely, diabetics run the risk of a high or low blood sugar, which can lead to hospitalization.

Type 1 diabetes is caused when the immune system destroys cells that create insulin, and the body cannot produce this necessary hormone, causing elevated levels of sugar in the blood.

I’ve become more self-aware, especially with eating. I never really cared about what I used to eat.”

— Junior Emma Potthast

Left untreated, diabetes can be dangerous for the body. It can cause problems such as blindness, kidney failure, and heart disease.

Diabetes changes the way an individual lives and how aware diabetics must be of their body. Since blood sugar levels fluctuate more frequently for diabetics, they must be more aware of the carbohydrates contained in foods.

Some diabetics, like Potthast, feel that they must plan each meal far in advance to keep count of their carb intake. As a result, Potthast has had to place more emphasis on what she eats. “I’ve become more self-aware, especially with eating. I never really cared what I used to eat, and now it’s opened me up to being healthier,” Potthast said

As a result, she must pack her lunch every day so that she can keep track of the carbs she eats. Although she can get something from the cafeteria, it’s easier to pack her own lunch because when she eats from the cafeteria, she doesn’t know the exact amount of carbs the food contains.

Diabetics must not only plan their meals around their disease, but also their entire schedules. “[Diabetes] causes me to restructure the things I do during the day. It just becomes an impedance. You have to think ahead,” Type 1 diabetic Athletic trainer Eric Fabriziani said.

After counting the amount of carbs in their meals, diabetics must also find ways to supply their bodies with additional insulin afterwards.

Some diabetics, like Fabriziani, use an insulin pump, which is attached to the body, to supply it with insulin. This is a way to avoid frequent injections with a needle. While this pump injects insulin into the body, diabetics must still input how much insulin they need into the machine since the process is not automatic. This makes administering insulin easier. “Sometimes we have long days where I’m away from my desk, and it’s just not easy to constantly deal with insulin injections,” Fabriziani said.

Other diabetics, like Potthast, have complications with the pump and must give themselves a shot of insulin after every meal or snack. In some instances, an individual’s blood sugar levels can be elevated without eating, but diabetics must still take a shot of insulin. This required injection means that Potthast, as well as other students with diabetes, must visit the nurse’s office at least once a day. “I make friends with all the nurses at my schools because I spend so much time there,” Potthast said.

In addition, some students may experience low blood sugar levels or high blood sugar levels at any point during the day and need to be excused from class to go address their symptoms. Sophomore Tommy Kerfoot says that he can spend up to a half hour in the nurse’s office addressing low blood sugar levels.

[Diabetes] causes me to restructure the things I do during the day. It just becomes an impedance. You have to think ahead.”

— Athletic Trainer Eric Fabriziani

These necessary absences from class can affect students’ schoolwork, as they miss class time to go take care of their physical health. “I think I would have a better academic standing if I didn’t have to leave class all the time because of my blood sugar levels,” Potthast said.

Diabetes not only forces students to change their routines, but also places a new emphasis on remembering supplies. Forgetting diabetic supplies or a lunch can lead to low blood sugar, which could cause weakness, shakiness, or even hospitalization.

Remembering the supplies that keep you healthy may seem like an easy task, but with so much to keep track of, students can still forget to bring everything with them to school. The importance of these supplies and the negative consequences of forgetting them can lead diabetics to stress over their preparation for health-related issues. “It’s always the thought of ‘will I need something?’ and not have it,” Fabriziani said.

Despite the struggles of living with diabetes, handling the disease can help individuals become more self-sufficient. “I’m very independent now, and I’m independent with my self-care,” Kerfoot said. This independence may have developed in response to his disease, but it is now a part of Kerfoot’s life.

While diabetics are forced to change their eating habits and lifestyles, these changes can ultimately help each of them grow and mature as a person. “Diabetes has made me a more prepared and organized person,” Potthast said.

Katherine Grimm is the Media Chief and Grace Mottley is the Assignment Chief for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.

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Don’t sugar coat this