Editor’s Note: Our 2021 NextGen Fellows interviewed some of our alumni. We will be featuring these interviews each month in 2022!
Kimberly Sauers was a former NextGen fellow and is currently on the track to become a nurse practitioner. She was diagnosed at age 12 when she began experiencing the common signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes (T1D). Because she was a competitive soccer player at the time, symptoms such as excessive thirst and weight loss were misattributed.
“I was playing soccer competitively at that time so when I started losing weight (I lost about 10 pounds in a month) and drinking a lot of water, the people around me initially thought it was from exercising a lot.”
She also notes that her cousin has T1D, which made her parents suspect the early onset of T1D.
”I still remember it so vividly; I was called to the principal’s office at school because my mom had come to pick me up for my doctor’s appointment. I left my books and homework at school because we thought I would be back by the end of the day; however, at my appointment I was diagnosed with T1D. I had no idea what it meant and I just remember crying the entire way to the hospital. At that age, I feel like most people have heard of T1D but you have no idea what it means.”
I thought this was an incredibly important point; as patients, we don’t fully understand what our illness entails until we’ve lived with it for some time.
Kimberly noted that fortunately she had plenty of support while adjusting to her diagnosis: “my endo team was very supportive; I was very independent in my care from the beginning which they fully supported.”
In her freshman year of college, Kimberly was diagnosed with celiac disease. In addition to this, she wanted to manage her blood glucose numbers more tightly. The combination of these events sparked an interest in nutrition. She decided to educate herself by reading many different books about nutrition, from the keto diet to plant-based. As she learned more about each diet, she sifted through the information to find the right way of eating for her body. In addition, she noticed the profound impact that her diet played in her diabetes management, stating “I was really interested in how you can take so much less insulin by eating in different ways.”
As she observed the impact of nutrition on her own body, she was inspired to study nutrition in college.
In December 2020, Kimberly completed her Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is now studying to become a nurse practitioner. When I asked how she manages T1D during clinical training, she said she was very worried about that during the summer but once the school year began she found that it’s very doable. She uses her Apple Watch to view her Dexcom readings; if the readings go out of range she will correct right away. She is currently using insulin injections, and said she gives small corrections throughout the day to keep her numbers in a healthy range. In addition, she has found that bolusing her long-acting insulin twice per day leads to the most steady numbers.
Eventually, Kimberly wants to help the adolescent T1D population, since it can be quite a challenging time of transition. In addition, she said the outpatient setting appeals to her because she wants to help each patient longitudinally.
“I’m really interested in working with the adolescent population in an outpatient setting because I feel that it’s such a vital time in your life… you’re basically figuring out whether you’re going to take care of yourself or not.”
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