Sunday, November 2, 2014

National Diabetes Month

So...November apparently is "National Diabetes Month" so I thought I'd give everyone a bit of insight in to what it's like to live as a Type 1 - insulin dependent diabetic. I was first diagnosed with this disease 13 years ago just after I had my second son.

First off, as a Type 1 diabetic, my body does NOT make insulin so no diet I go on will ever change that fact that I need insulin. It will, however, lessen some of my need for it. That's why I really like the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating. It's very diabetes friendly and I've been able to see a huge improvement in my blood sugar numbers. I still have a little way to go, but they are the best they have been in the last 13 years.

That's also why I opted to get my tattoo a couple years ago. I should wear a medical alert bracelet and did for the first few years, but when my original one broke, I couldn't find a replacement one I liked so I decided to just go permanent. That is also why I wear an insulin pump - 24/7 with very little breaks. I can only take it off for an hour to shower or swim. Other than that, it's on me. This is a vast improvement though from the 4-5 shots (or more) that I would have to give myself every day. My pump also gives me much more flexibility in when I eat and exercise.

Exercise makes your body use what insulin you have more effectively. Since I always have insulin running (it's called a basal rate), by wearing a pump I can turn this rate down so I don't have a low sugar during or after working out. Since I work out four times a week, this is really helpful for me.

It's also important to realize that Type 1 diabetics could eat the same thing every single day and something would go wrong and blood sugar affected. For example, just today I experienced one of the worse reactions to a high blood sugar that I have ever had in my 13 years as a T1.

A normal range of blood sugar is 70-100 for most people. Typically diabetics are allowed to go a tad bit higher to 120, but that's really the max.

My pump was getting low on insulin this morning. It alarms when I have less than 15 units left. That will typically last me a couple of hours. Since we were heading out to church and I didn't want the alarm to keep going off, I knew I needed to change the setting and add insulin.

When I say setting or "infusion set" this is what I mean:
Not my body.

I wear this exact same style of infusion set. It's placed with a large needle that is removed once placed. There is a plastic "needle" or cannula left behind through which my pump infuses insulin - much like a small IV. The section being held in the hand above is the part that can be removed. It's attached to the tubing which is attached to the reservoir that holds my insulin inside my pump. There is a motor inside that works to push the insulin through the tubing, kind of like an electric syringe. However, I did change everything out just before leaving for church. And that's when things went wonky.

Our church does somewhat of an "intermission" after worship songs. Children in grades preK-8 have Sunday School during the service so this is when they all leave, people can use the restroom, and do any last minute things that need doing before the sermon begins. I felt "off" and could tell I had some lactic acid building up in my system. This meant all the sugar in my system had no where to go. It couldn't get in to the cells and was building up in my blood stream. Ketones were forming which are never a good thing for a diabetic! I decided to test and my sugar was over 500 at that point. So I took a correction bolus and settled in to listen to our pastor.

However, within a half hour I could tell things were getting worse. The lactic acid was awful. I knew the longer I sat, the worse it would get, but I also wasn't even sure I could make it to the bathroom to test my sugar. I finally decided I really had no choice. I grabbed my meter and stood up. My legs were so stiff as I walked to the bathroom  that they weren't moving like they should at all.

Again I tested my sugar and it was still over 500. I once more took a bolus of insulin but at this point had figured out that something was not working with the new set I had placed that morning. I most likely hit a pocket of scar tissue which means my body wasn't absorbing the insulin like it should. I don't typically carry insulin or supplies with me on day-to-day outings except for my testing meter. I only carry backup supplies if I'm going to be gone overnight anywhere. So, I had no way to fix this until I went home and thankfully church would be wrapping up in the next 15-20 minutes. The walk helped move some of the lactic acid so my legs at least were working somewhat properly when I headed back to my seat.

As soon as I got home from church, I gave myself another correction bolus, but this time, I gave it with a needle so I knew it went in. I then changed out my entire setting again - tossing this new one since I can't reuse it once it's been inserted. This really hurts because my insurance company does not cover my pump supplies. They cover my insulin and test strips, but I pay out of pocket for the infusion sets. Even my pump is out of warranty, but still working. This means if it does break, I need to purchase a new one. They run at least $5,000 and up which means I can't afford to replace it so I hope it continues to work until we have insurance that will once more cover it. My pump was purchased when we did have insurance that covered such things. And no, none of this has to do with existing conditions and Obamacare. This all happened years before.

I skipped lunch and finally had just some pepperoni sticks around 2pm (pure protein so it wouldn't affect my blood sugar but would quiet my hungry tummy). By 4:30pm my sugar was down to about 176 and I felt it safe to finally eat something with carbs in it with a good bolus to cover. It was obvious that the insulin I had injected was slowly working to bring down my sugar levels.

I did have a pity party because living with diabetes just, well, it just sucks. There's no polite way of saying it. Every day I have to think about blood sugar, carb counts, exercise, etc - all things that affect my sugar and it can be very overwhelming at times. Then I think about how overwhelming it is to me - an adult - and think of all the families who deal with this insidious disease with their children.

So the next time someone tells you they have diabetes, refrain from thinking it's because they are overweight or eat too much sugar. All those things could be true, but those aren't the cause of everyone who has this disease. In fact, it's thought that mine was caused by a virus. So refrain from giving advice unless they ask. More often than not, we're just doing the best we can with it.

Now I'm off to eat a snack because three hours after I had my meal, I'm now low (62) and thus begins the lovely yo-yo'ing affect of high and low blood sugars. Just for once, I wish mine would stay normal no matter what.

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