Managing Life with Diabetes

 

By Mary Rose Fissinger

Halfway through first period math, in the midst of a lecture on axis symmetry and circles, Liza Wohlberg ’13 takes a short break from listening to her teacher and pulls out her blood glucose monitoring meter and slyly pricks her finger under the desk. Seeing that her blood sugar is at a healthy level, she silently puts her meter away and goes back to taking notes, her brief break having gone entirely undetected.

Wohlberg has become accustomed to fitting in short insulin checks during her school days. She was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes when she was seven years old, and monitoring her blood sugar has become habitual, if not instinctual.

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body does not create enough insulin.

“Insulin is produced in the pancreas, and its purpose is to facilitate the transport of glucose into the cells of the body. Without insulin, cells would not have access to the glucose and therefore would not be able to function,” Diabetes Nurse Specialist at UCLA Medical Center Rose Healy said.

In Type I Diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas have stopped producing insulin, so insulin must be constantly pumped into the body to keep the blood sugar at a healthy level.

“I test my blood sugar eight to ten times a day,” Wohlberg said. “I check before every meal, two hours after a meal, and before exercise. If my blood sugar is too high, I compensate by giving myself extra insulin via my insulin pump. If my blood sugar is too low, I eat or drink something, usually a protein bar or a juice box.”

When Wohlberg was seven, her mother took her to the doctor after noticing that she had been overeating and drinking, losing weight, and displaying disinterest towards things that usually made her happy. She was diagnosed with diabetes and stayed in the hospital for three nights getting her blood sugar back under control.

Kenny Lopez ’13 displayed similar symptoms at the age of eight, when his parents became concerned that he was drinking a lot of water, rapidly losing weight, and going to the bathroom very frequently. He too was diagnosed with Type I diabetes.

Lopez, like Wohlberg, must frequently monitor his blood glucose level, and he too has an insulin pump.

“I also have to take pills twice a day because my body is becoming more and more insulin resistant as I grow older,” Lopez said.

Both Lopez and Wohlberg have become very accustomed to this lifestyle, and say that it does not affect their day to day lives in any extreme way, though they do have to pay closer attention to what they eat and be careful of how they feel when they are exercising.

“I count carbohydrates in order to know how much insulin to take per meal. I eat a pretty balanced diet, which I hope I would do anyway, but diabetes definitely makes me aware of what my meals are composed of and it’s important to get the right amount of protein in relation to sugar for me,” Wohlberg said.

“The only thing I am limited on is my sugar intake, but I never ate much anyways, so it’s fine,” Lopez said.

Both bring lunches from home, but on days when they don’t, they are able to find plenty of options in the cafeteria.

“My favorite thing to get is sushi,” Wohlberg said.

Diabetes affects Wohlberg’s life when she exercises more than at any other time. She is a ballet dancer, and she has to be careful of when she can wear her insulin pump and when she cannot.

“Longer classes give me more of an issue. For example, if I take a two hour class, my strategy is usually to keep my pump on for the first twenty or so minutes, take it off for the bulk of class because heavy exercise will cause my blood sugar to drop and compensate for the lack of insulin, and then I’ll test my blood sugar and put it back on for the end of class, maybe the last 20 minutes,” Wohlberg said.

She keeps a snack with her at all times, in case she feels her blood sugar decreasing, and she makes sure to drink plenty of water so that if her blood sugar is too high, the sugar is flushed out more quickly.

Lopez also has learned to pay close attention to how he feels when exercising.

“I do track and field, and I always have to be aware of how I feel, because exercise brings my BG [blood glucose] lower, so I can actually pass out if I go too low,” Lopez said.

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