A New Appreciation For The Fragility Of Life

How An Entire Life Rests On The Balance Of Blood Sugar


Basima Khan, Staff Writer

Imagine your whole life hanging on the balance of your blood sugar. Imagine calculating the amount of carbohydrates you consume multiple times throughout the day, in order to survive. Diabetes, an illness where your blood sugar becomes too low due to the inefficiency to produce or utilize the hormone insulin, changes the life of a person in monumental ways. Many types of diabetes exist, but Type One Diabetes, Type Two Diabetes, and Gestational Diabetes remain the three most common types. Type One Diabetes causes your body to fail in producing insulin.  Type Two Diabetes, the most common type of diabetes, causes your body to struggle at utilizing insulin efficiently. Gestational Diabetes pops up in women during pregnancies and usually disappears after the pregnancy ends. Gestational Diabetes increases the chance of developing Type Two Diabetes in women. Old age, obesity, family history, lack of exercise, and race or ethnicity increase the chance of diabetes.

Maddison Gross, an Olathe East senior, diagnosed with diabetes at age 14, specifies what occurs in the body of someone with Type One Diabetes.

“There’s Type One Diabetes which is what I have. [It] is an immune deficiency. There are beta cells in your pancreas that produce insulin. [The hormone,] insulin takes the glucose out of your blood and puts it into your cells for energy. My immune system is attacking my beta cells so they can’t function and produce insulin. I have to take a synthetic version of insulin,” Gross said.

Scientists believe autoimmune, genetic, and environmental aspects develop diabetes but remain unaware of what exactly causes diabetes.

Diagnosed with Type One Diabetes, OE senior John Lewis explains what current research indicates about the cause of diabetes.

“They’ve done some research and they think that there’s a virus people have [which] has just mutated. It can be coped with by natural human evolution. But for some people, it doesn’t become noticed until certain ages. I don’t know why I got it. There’s not a real good explanation for it. I’m sure there’s some reason for it, we just don’t know it yet,” Lewis said.

Diabetes generally causes numerous symptoms in people, indicating the person possesses diabetes.

“Some major symptoms are thirst and nausea after eating because [it’s] a symptom of high blood sugar. You get nauseous when there’s too much sugar in your system. Frequent urination is another [symptom], because you’re drinking a lot but your body can’t hold onto it so you expel it. [With my symptoms], I lost weight. I stopped eating because it would make me feel so bad to eat. Some of my friends have been diagnosed because they actually went into a coma from high blood sugar. I had a friend whose blood sugar was at 1000. Mine was diagnosed at 570. It is very serious once your blood sugar gets over 300. [Diabetes] is definitely a very dangerous disease to have, ” Gross said.

Due to holding great impacts on a person’s diet, diabetes also affects a person’s energy level.

“I didn’t want to eat and I only wanted to drink water all the time. I had no motivation to move or do anything,” Lewis said.

Kylie Bergdall, another senior diagnosed with diabetes at a young age held a completely different answer.

“I had no symptoms,” Bergdall said.

A number of tests determine whether or not a person possesses diabetes. Blood glucose testing and urine testing determine the diagnose of someone who harbors symptoms of diabetes or possesses the disease itself. Blood glucose testing measures the level of glucose or sugar in a person’s body. A person with diabetes possesses an unusually higher blood sugar than a person without the illness. Urine testing determines whether a person possesses an extremely high blood pressure.

When a person becomes diagnosed with diabetes, he or she needs to determine how to keep their blood sugar in check and make sure their body produces or reacts appropriately to insulin.

“The effects [of Type Two Diabetes] can be severely reduced with changes in diet and exercise. The only way to cope with [Type One ] is insulin dependency and awareness of diet. You can’t reduce the effects. It’s a lifelong disease,” Lewis said.

When diagnosed with diabetes, a people find  themselves with more responsibilities than they previously maintained. Specific responsibilities are checking and maintaining blood sugar. Numerous factors must also be taken into account when calculating the carbs in a meal. These responsibilities determine how much insulin must be administered into the body.

“I’m supposed to check [my blood sugar] before and after meals, before and after snacks, when I wake up, when I go to bed, after any kind of activity. I’m supposed to be checking it around 10 times a day,” Gross said.

The age of a diabetic also affects the amount times a person needs to check his or her blood sugar.

“When you’re a younger diabetic, you supposed to check every four hours,” Lewis said.

Diabetics find themselves with the meticulous responsibility of calculating the amount of sugar every meal of the day contains.

“Carbohydrates are what I have to count when I eat. There were so many things I didn’t even think about having carbs. When you think of carbs, you think of bread, pasta, [and] potatoes. But carbs are sugar. Everything has sugar,” Gross added.

Sometimes, people with diabetes face challenges when calculating carbohydrates in environments where the information present is not enough to determine the number of carbs in a meal.

“It’s the worst when I go out to restaurants and they don’t have those nutrition facts menus so it’s kind of an estimation, you have to break apart each part of your meal. You just have to break it down piece by piece and add it all together,” Gross adds.

People with diabetes balance their blood sugar by checking and administering insulin in their body every time they consume food. Diabetics often possess devices which inform them of how high or low their blood sugar is.

“I have a censor and it connects with my phone so my blood sugar always pops up on my phone and alerts me if I’m trending up or trending down so I can take care of it,” Bergdall said.

Multiple different ways exist for a how a person with diabetes administers insulin into his or her body. The method of administering insulin depends on what is best-suited for the diabetic.

“There’s a couple of ways I can administer insulin to myself and that’s by injection or my insulin pump. It’s just kind of in me. It’s like a band aid. It’s got a little plastic cannula that goes into my skin that I can change every three days. It comes from my insulin pump through my tubing and into the little cannula. That’s how the insulin gets into my body. It’s very convenient [compared] to shots,” Gross said.

People with diabetes must remain mindful of their blood sugar, their environment, the amount of insulin administered into their body, and many other responsibilities. If a diabetic becomes inattentive to his or her illness, disastrous and life-threatening consequences could occur.

“I have lapsed into a critical condition. Last year, in December of 2016 I with a group of friends. We were eating snacks, eating junk food, and then we were dancing around. I had given myself insulin for those snacks but I did not account for the dancing. Insulin brings my sugar down because it’s taking the sugar out of my blood and putting it into my cells. I had taken too much insulin and didn’t account for the exercise. Exercise also lowers your blood sugar. My blood sugar went into an extreme low and I had a seizure. The only thing I remember was going to bed and then waking up in an ambulance.” Gross said.

Lapsing into a critical condition often makes diabetics more aware of how serious their illness truly is.

“It was very scary. I was very fortunate I didn’t have any permanent damage to my body because it was a very short seizure. Since I’ve been diagnosed, I’ve been told I could severely hurt myself. If my blood sugar does go too high, I could go into a coma and cause severe damage. If my blood sugar goes too low, I could die from that. It was a very eye-opening experience because you think it’s never going to happen to me. The fact that it did gave me a healthy respect for my illness, for sure,” Gross said.

Diabetes holds a number of effects on a person’s health. Besides resulting in comas and seizures, diabetes can result in celiac disease, blindness, high blood pressure, kidney problems, thyroid problems, and amputations.

Nancy Johns, Olathe East’s school nurse describes one of the health effects of diabetes an acquaintance experienced.

“My niece’s husband’s father just had an amputation because he got a sore and it wouldn’t heal and he got gangrene. He had to have it amputated. Diabetes caused it,” Nurse Johns said.

When being diagnosed with diabetes, diabetics find themselves surrounded with responsibilities and monumental significant life changes.

“When I got diagnosed, I was in shock, temporarily. People treated me differently. They asked a lot of ignorant questions. The less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you are to have fluctuations in your feelings and moods, at least for me. If my blood sugar is high or I recognize that I have trends that are not good than I usually am more stressed. Stress can also lead to changes in your blood sugar. [During puberty] the whole change in lifestyle is extremely affected by your diagnosis with diabetes. You have to worry about how you feel, how you currently feel according to a number on the screen, and you have to do your calculations until technology approves you are as normal as the non-diabetic next to you which is both a mental stress and a physical stress, for me,” Lewis said.

Families of people with diabetes still find themselves affected by the illness, regardless of whether or not they have the disease. Parents must make adjustments to their life according to what is best for their child.

“Before I got my insulin pump, I had to do shots. Since I was 10, I did not know how to do that myself, so my parents had to constantly count my carbs for me at meals and make sure I got my insulin. But now that I’m responsible for myself, it’s less of a problem for them,” Bergdall said.

Parents find themselves affected emotionally and mentally when their children become diagnosed with diabetes.

“It was very tough for everyone because we all had to make big changes around me. My mom, she always feels so guilty that this illness was bought on me and it wasn’t brought on anyone else. She always cares so much about it, she keeps me on top of everything, and I’m so grateful for that,” Gross said.

Diabetes, a serious condition, holds massive impacts on someone’s life. It forces them to change their whole way of thinking and gives them more responsibility than they previously held. The critical illness affects families and requires changes in lifestyle. A person’s entire life becomes dependent on the balance of blood sugar.


Basima Khan // Staff Writer