A Day in the Life of a College Student with T1D
Do you know what it’s like to basically have to become an organ that you need in order to survive–performing functions that most people’s bodies just do on their own?
Do you know what it’s like to feel the pressure to do everything perfectly, because if you don’t, you could face amputation, or lose your vision, or other vital organs in your body could fail?
What about pricking your finger multiple times a day and then giving injections or sticking needles in your body to change a pump site or a continuous glucose monitor?
Do you even understand those phrases? People with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) do. These things and so much more are day to day problems and worries in the life of a T1D.
The month of November is dedicated to raising awareness for T1D. This week is College Diabetes Week 2016. And today, I am going to walk you through a day in the life of a college student with T1D.
It’s seven thirty in the morning and my alarm goes off, signaling the start of a new day. Suddenly, I realize something isn’t right.
I have a headache and I’m feeling nauseous. I’m very thirsty and I have to pee so badly that I feel like I may explode.
I get up and check my blood sugar. The number 440 comes up on my monitor. I have to lay back down because I’m feeling so nauseous.
This isn’t in target. Normal range is 80-120. I’ve been high all night. That’s way too long.
I tell my pump to give me insulin and email my professor to tell her I’m not feeling well, and won’t be able to make it to class. I feel guilty for using diabetes as an excuse, but she understands and says she hopes I feel better.
About half an hour later, I start to feel like I can get up and function a little better. I prick my finger again and check to make sure my sugar levels are coming down. They are. I get ready for the day.
I pack my backpack before leaving for the bus. Do I have my monitor? Do I have enough test strips for my monitor? Do I have enough insulin in my pump for the day? I make sure I have a snack in case I get low.
I head off to my classes and try to be normal for a while. Nobody knows about my diabetes. Nobody can tell that I’m any different; that is, until my pump starts to beep in the middle of the lecture. Everyone stares. I fumble through my bag and read the message on the screen of my monitor that says I need to change my pump site tonight.
“Couldn’t it have reminded me of that at a better time?” I think to myself.
I go throughout my day as normally as possible. I spend a couple of hours between classes in the library doing homework (the quiet floor of the library at Auburn is my favorite place in the whole world). I might call my Mom or Dad and catch up with them. I check things off of my list in my planner, just as everyone else does, and eventually I head back to class.
As I’m sitting in class it begins to get harder to concentrate. My hands start to shake. I start to break out in a cold sweat. I’m confused. Then I realize — I forgot to eat lunch. My blood sugar is low.
The other day I saw someone say that when they are low, everything seems to get brighter. That’s what’s happening now. I start to get really tired and weak. I’d really rather not move. Maybe if I just stay still, I’ll feel a little better. I start to feel worse. I really should get up and go get something. That’s going to be embarrassing. It’d be even more embarrassing if I passed out though. I get up and head for the door. My professor makes a snarky comment about my leaving early. The class laughs at me. I leave anyway and remind myself to send him a snarky email later in response.
As I’m walking to a vending machine, I start to feel it in my legs. It feels like they could give out at any moment. I worry that if I pass out, no one will know what to do. My heart is beating so fast and I’m starting to get out of breath because just walking a few steps takes it out of me when I’m low. Someone talks to me and I reply with slurred speech. Yikes, he probably thinks I’m drunk in the middle of the day. I just want to lay down. I get a juice from the vending machine and sit down on the floor until I feel better.
Later in the day, as I’m getting dinner with a group of friends, someone asks, “Should you be eating that? You already have diabetes.” I just scrolled past a Facebook post that includes an image of a big piece of cake that reads, “#Diabetes.” I laugh it off and decide that dinner isn’t the best place to passive aggressively educate people on diabetes.
I pull out my insulin pump for what seems like the billionth time that day and give insulin for my meal. The person next to me has a pancreas that releases insulin into her bloodstream without her even noticing. I sigh and hope for the day when my pancreas will do that again.
I head home and do a little homework, shower, and get ready for bed. I brush my teeth, put moisturizer on my face, and then prick my finger and squeeze it to draw enough blood for the ninth time today. If the number is under 115, I usually eat a couple crackers to keep it from going lower in the middle of the night.
I don’t have the luxury I used to have of my Dad coming in and checking my sugar at three in the morning. He did that for SEVEN YEARS after I was diagnosed. Props to him, and all the other parents of children living with T1D. That’s hard work.
I get in bed, and before drifting off to sleep, I pray for a cure. I pray for a time when I won’t be frustrated by my friends because they don’t know enough about this disease. I pray for a time when I won’t feel awful because I forgot to do something that my body should just do on its own. I pray for a time when we won’t need Diabetes Awareness Month or College Diabetes Week. I pray for a time when T1D will not be something I and so many others have to deal with every day. I drift off to sleep, and in my dreams, Type 1 Diabetes is no more.
It’s 7:30 in the morning and my alarm goes off, signaling the start of a new day…
Editor’s note: College Diabetes Week is made possible by the generous support of our sponsors: Dexcom, Insulet, and Tandem.
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