I still remember how I felt when I was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I was four years old, it was 1982 and technology was a far cry from what it is now.
I recall a number of symptoms that, at the time, made me angry and sad without having the benefit of understanding what was happening. I began wetting the bed again. This was the most humiliating, since my parents felt they had no option but to put me in diapers when I went to bed. I would wake in the morning with a soaked diaper, wondering why I didn’t wake up to use the washroom. My weight and appetite fluctuated and my personality changed almost overnight. My thirst was constant and I was always cranky.
My parents thought that perhaps I was simply going through a phase. I had just turned four, after all. The well-known “fournado” period was well under way. It wasn’t until I awoke one morning and sat at the kitchen table, complaining of stomach pain and feeling strange that things reached a plateau.
One morning, I promptly passed out into my bowl of Cheerios (I don’t know if it was actually Cheerios, just to be clear. But one can assume…). I was transported to the local hospital, but I don’t remember a great deal of the next few days. This is likely because I was comatose. I would later learn that my blood sugar had gotten so high that the glucometers of the time couldn’t effectively read my blood glucose. Considering my modern day glucometer caps off at 33.0 mmol/L, that’s saying a lot.
Once I woke up (several days later), it was discovered through testing that I had been diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic. Although I didn’t really know what this meant at the time, it would go on to define me as a person for the rest of my life.
The weeks that followed involved a lot of trial and error as well as a glucometer that took almost three minutes to test with, and was about the size of a brick. My parents had no concept of what carb-counting was, or how to ensure that I didn’t ingest glucose from sources they weren’t aware of (“oh, bread doesn’t have sugar, sweetheart! You can have as much of that as you want”). Back in the 80’s, sugared goods were sugared goods; I’m talking cookies and baked goods and stuff. Bread, milk and potatoes were considered non-sugared goods. Unbeknownst to me, I was causing all kinds of damage to my system from consuming all those carbs without the benefit of calculating how much insulin I would require. It would prove to be a challenge I would have to deal with, later on in life…
I don’t blame my parents. They did the best they could with what they had available at the time. I honestly wouldn’t learn about carb-counting and such until 2015, almost 33 years after I was diagnosed.
My point is, now I’m connected to an insulin pump that is tethered to my body. It weighs less than an ounce and I test my blood using an interstitial fluid glucose reader, which would have have been considered inconceivable ten to fifteen years ago. But it’s how I live my life now.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet some people interested in upgrading to a new insulin pump. The latest design, it calculates and adjust one’s glucose levels every five minutes and helps to eliminate a number of steps required to maintain good glucose levels.
I met a gentleman who had been on an insulin pump in the 1980’s, as well as a youth who has only been on the pump for about three months. The variety was humbling, and I’ve ultimately decided to upgrade and move on to something newer.
Although I have always been a believer that technology isn’t the answer to everything, we keep moving one step closer to a point where perhaps someday, we’ll achieve a worry-free system that will take care of itself. We may not be able to create a new pancreas, but we can sure as hell combine technology with biology to provide a better tomorrow for future Type 1 Diabetics.