Some of you that are new to my blog may not know that my older brother is Type 1.
He is 3 years older than me, and I’m proud to call him my friend. Proud, because when we were kids he was my mortal enemy. ;) We fought like cats and dogs. Fortunately, when we “grew-up” and had kids of our own, we were able to settle into a comfortable friendship. Even though we live a couple states away from each other, our kids are best friends. His family came to visit last week and Evan and I watched in awe as our kids skipped happily ahead of us arm in arm into the Six Flags entrance. If you would have told us 20 years ago that we would be witnessing such an event, we would have shook our heads and laughed hysterically.
As parents of Type 1’s, I think we all are curious about the life of adult type 1’s. It is a little peak into our children’s futures...inquiring minds want to know!
Evan was happy to be interviewed to answer some of burning questions I had about adulthood and T1.
Me: How old were you when you were diagnosed?
Evan: I was 23 years old.
Side note: (I remember the day that he was diagnosed. My mother had called me and I cried hysterically. My husband was stunned by my reaction. So was I. I had no idea what it all meant, but inside me, somewhere, I knew that THAT moment in time was an important one, and the emotions flooded into me for days.)
Me: What were your symptoms?
Evan: I lost 65 pounds in less than 4 months. My lips were insanely dry and I was constantly peeing. When I was in these stages I was splitting my time between Sonoma and Sacramento. It is a two hour drive and you bet I knew EVERY single restaurant and McDonalds on the commute that would let me use the bathroom without buying anything. I was also working at a restaurant, and they wouldn’t let me leave my station even when I had to desperately go to the bathroom. I was always parched and drank a steady flow of regular Coke, which of course, didn’t help things.
Me: So you finally went to the doctor…what happened then?
Evan: The doctors diagnosed me as a Type 2 right away, because of my age, and they gave me pills. A few months after one doctor gave me NPH to use only at night. When I moved to Taiwan to teach English I read dozens of books on diabetes and diagnosed myself as a Type 1. I prescribed myself my own insulin. Since I didn’t know better, I asked for pig insulin at first. Later I got National Healthcare in Taiwan. I found a doctor who knew what he was doing, and he put me on a new insulin regimen.
Me: Have you ever had a diabetic emergency?
Evan: When I was on the pills, I thought I was going blind. I went to the emergency room, and they just gave me more pills. I had no insurance at the time and was billed thousands of dollars for their stupidity. There was one time I was so shaky, I had to sit on the floor and I asked someone to get me a coke, but that is the extent of it.
Me: Can you tell me what it feels like to have a low blood sugar?
Evan: For me, I get the shakes. I used to get shaky when I was 70, now I don’t until I’m in the 40’s. I also have nightmares when I go low in the middle of the night. If I wake up, and I’m scared or worried, 90% of the time I’ll check and I’ll be low.
Me: What does a high blood sugar feel like?
Evan: In my case, it’s all about peeing. I know I’m high by how my bladder feels. If I’m over 260, I’ve got to pee.
Me: When and why did you start the pump?
Evan: I spoke to my doctor about a pump and he said it wasn’t an option. A few months later I got a call from my doctor to come in. Apparently you had spoken to your endo, who called my nurse to tell her a pump WAS needed. I started shortly after.
Me: I forgot I did that. I’m so awesome. It made your life better, didn’t it?
Evan: Yes. My A1C’s are about the same, but it really has made my life easier. It especially helped with the dawn phenomenon. I had awful spikes early in the morning…the pump makes those spikes controllable now. I like being able to turn the insulin off before bed if I’m dropping fast, and I especially like the meter that links to the pump. I don’t have to enter the number and it is very convenient.
Me: How often do you see your Endo?
Evan: (Smiling) Meri, I’m a little different than most of the diabetics you know. I’ve only seen an Endocrinologist like four times in my life. Three of those times were when I was starting the pump. Since I diagnosed myself…and educated myself…I mostly take care of myself. I have a standing order to get my blood drawn a couple times a year, and I take my blood pressure when I’m at the store. If my A1C’s weren’t so good, I’d probably seek out an Endo’s advice. But so far, I’ve been okay on my own.
Me: What is the biggest pain about having Type 1 Diabetes?
Evan: Driving is the biggest pain. It’s hard to multi-task while I’m driving. Just on the way down for this trip, I would poke my finger and Cheryl would squeeze out the blood and touch it to the monitor for me. Also, my immune system is pretty crappy, I’m a teacher and I get all the colds and flus that the kids bring to school. Another thing is everyone and their mother seems to know someone with Type 2. I’m always getting “advice” on how to take care of my diabetes. I’m always running into the food police too.
Me: Do your students know you are Type 1?
Evan: Yes. At the beginning of the year I show them my pump. I explain it’s not a cell phone. I tell them I may eat skittles now and then and no, they can’t have any. I also tell them if I start acting weird, or get unresponsive that they should run next door to get Mr. Fertado.
Me: Do you think you are a different person than you would have been, because you have diabetes?
Evan: Definitely. I am more cautious because of it. The biggest contributing factor for me becoming a teacher is the fact I knew I would get pretty good health insurance. Even though I am glad I choose to be a teacher, I may have chosen a different profession if health insurance wasn't such an important requirement.
Me: Is diabetes a big part of your life?
Evan: Honestly, I forget I’m diabetic half the time. Everything I do is just so automatic. The only time I complain about being diabetic is when I have to get out of bed in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
Me: Cheryl, does Evans diabetes play a big role in your life?
Cheryl: Not at all.
Evan: I think the biggest way I inconvenience Cheryl, is when my alarm goes off in the middle of the night. She helps me out, but generally…our life is just a normal one.
(The boys and Evan with their Minimed Pumps)