It’s not going to go away
Most 17-year-olds have one eye on their social life, extracurricular activities and family time and the other eye on their future. Sara is not like most American teenagers.
“There’s never a break, or a minute off from thinking about my blood sugar,” Sara says today, 18 months after she went to the hospital for a concussion and left with a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes (T1D). “It’s become a huge part of my life.”
Not surprisingly, it came as a complete surprise. “It was a huge shock for me and my family,” she says. ”It was such a hard thing to accept.”
“A T1D diagnosis is a really scary diagnosis for many reasons,” says Matthias, a medical researcher who works developing T1D treatments. “One is many patients might not even know what the disease is about. Also, finding out it’s a chronic disease…it’s not going to go away.”
“The most frightening part,” Matthias recognizes, “is realizing you have to live with this all your life. You have to muster the strength to deal with this every single day.”
“So many things contribute to my diabetes in everyday life,” Sara explains. “If I’m taking a test, my blood sugar goes high, or it goes low. If I’m sick, my blood sugar goes high. There’s never a second where you can’t think about it.”
Still, Sarah has learned how to listen to her body and overcome her initial fears. “To hear that I had to prick my finger ten times a day, to be giving myself insulin injections like five, six times a day, I was really resistant. But I won’t let my fear of needles stop me from living.”
Sara is redrawing her life at a time of tremendous T1D treatment progress. “We have made fantastic strides,” Matthias says. “We’re developing solutions that will offer patients better alternatives and, in many ways, a vacation from the disease.”
Sara is already seeing it in her own treatment.
“When I first was diagnosed, I had to draw insulin from a vial, and then inject that with a syringe and then I got an insulin pump. Now I’m not giving myself injections 10 times a day,” she says. “It stays right on me.”
Sara knows she is not like most American teenagers for one more reason: her treatment has brought one possible future for her into clearer focus. “My doctors and my nurses saved my life, and I’m so thankful for all that they have done for me,” she says. “I want to be like them when I’m older.”