• 81°

Understanding T1D

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and with this month comes a time to educate and advocate.

Educate those who do not know the difference between type 1 diabetes (T1D) and type 2 diabetes (T2D) and advocate for those who fight the disease day in and day out.

Diabetes is hard to manage. T1D is extremely hard to manage and fatal if left untreated with insulin.

T2D can be managed with diet, exercise and medications.

I must admit I am no expert when it comes to T2D, but when it comes to T1D, I can give you a wealth of information.

T1D is an autoimmune disorder. Put super simply, your immune system attacks the insulin-producing (beta cells) in your pancreas and kills them — hence your body cannot make insulin. No special diet, exercise, or herb can bring dead cells back. Also, let me add you do not get T1D from eating too much sugar.

I cannot begin to tell you the times I heard that above statement many years ago when my daughter was diagnosed with T1D.

Eleven years ago, I took my then 10-year-old daughter to the doctor quickly to find out that her blood sugar was over 500.

We were quickly rushed to the emergency room, followed by a few day’s stays in the Pediatric ICU.

I spent days asking the doctors a multitude of questions from how did this happen? Must she take shots the rest of life? We had to learn a new normal that included midnight wake-ups just to make sure she was OK, finger pricks to test blood sugar numbers, new types of foods, shots after shots and counting the carbs in everything she ate.

The best that we can determine is that my daughter had a kidney infection a few months earlier, and her immune system attacked the cells in her pancreas.

What was even scarier was that we learned that if I had not taken my daughter to the doctor the day I did, she might not even be here with us today.

High blood sugars can wreak havoc on the body, low blood sugars cause someone not to wake up, and the list goes on.

Imagine putting your child to bed each night, making sure that her blood sugars are stable, hoping they remain so and praying each time you walk into her room each morning that she is still breathing.

Yes, T1D is that serious. And let’s not forget there is an emotional side to this disease.

The brain is never resting.

What’s my blood sugar? What am I eating for breakfast? Does it have a lot of protein/fat? Should I give the full dose — I’m going to the gym later? But sometimes lots of exercise increases my blood sugar. But the 20-minute walk there and back may decrease it? Oh, but I have an exam later that I’m kind of stressed about that might make me go up?

More than 1.25 million Americans live with T1D, and this number continues to grow. They need insulin several times a day, every day, to survive. It cannot be emphasized enough that T1D is fatal without insulin.

A person with T1D cannot just stop taking insulin, whether they can afford it or not.

Considering the life-saving nature of this drug, insulin should be affordable and accessible to all those who need it. However, multiple studies show that the cost of insulin has tripled, even quadrupled, in recent years.

Insulin should be a human right. Those with T1D did not cause the disease. It did not come from drinking too much, smoking, not exercising, or the most heard “eating too much sugar.”

Crystal Vandegrift is a staff reporter for The Charlotte Gazette and Farmville Newsmedia LLC. Her email address is Crystal.Vandegrift@TheCharlotteGazette.com.