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What are the realities of trying to prevent or control diabetes? In your life, family, and/or community? What about this inspires you? Is it a person, an experience, or something you learned about diabetes?


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Mary's Diabetes Story

When Mary was ten years old, her life was changed forever. One day while playing with her friends, she felt sick, and started going into a diabetic coma, and almost did not survive. She was rushed to the emergency department, and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

Mary’s family did not have a lot of money, but they knew that controlling Mary’s blood sugar as much as possible was the best way to ensure Mary’s health did not deteriorate quickly. Much of their hard earned money went into Mary’s glucometer, test strips, and insulin. Mary, at age ten, learned to poke her finger daily, and administer her own insulin shots. She was very brave, but it was hard for her to adjust to this new lifestyle of counting carbohydrates and poking herself often.

I first met Mary in the sixth grade. She was a year younger than me, but I felt that she was older and more mature than me, and we got along great. We were inseparable. I first learned about diabetes through Mary. She was very knowledgeable about her disease, and always very good about checking her blood glucose often. She would often let me check my sugar as well, even though I often did not want to, I did it anyways out of curiosity. She showed me what to do in case her sugar got low, and also what to do if it got too high. When we hung out, I was in charge in case any emergencies occurred.

I never realized how Mary’s diabetes affected her until we got older. Whenever I wanted to go on a junk food splurge, Mary could not. I tried out for multiple sports, but Mary could not for the taxing physical exercise often gave her dizzy spells, and her blood sugar would drop too low and cause her to have to take multiple breaks. Mary had very crooked teeth, and she wished for the entire world that she could get braces. But her orthodontist told her that her jaw needed to be operated on first, but he was not willing to do the surgery because with her diabetes it would be too dangerous. During lunch Mary sometimes felt awkward checking her sugar with everyone around, so she would often go to a bathroom stall to check it. She did not like people staring at her, or thinking she was different. I believe those first growing up years were very difficult for Mary, when you just want to be a normal kid. But Mary’s parents were very involved, and she kept a log of her blood sugars, which her parents kept track of as well.

Eventually Mary had to move, about the time I moved away to college. The economy in Michigan had been suffering, and both her parents were laid off. They could not afford to live in their little house anymore, and Mary’s medical expenses were a hard toll on them. I talk to Mary every once in a while, and we still remain very good friends. I look back now and admire her for going through those awkward childhood years while trying to live with diabetes.

I chose nursing as a career, and Mary is a big reason for that decision. I wanted to help people, and her condition fascinated me. I remember she often let me use her for my school projects in my science classes; I often discussed diabetes for presentations and school projects. During my hospital shifts I run into diabetics that do not comply with treatments, and refuse to manage their diabetes, with great consequences to their health. I think of Mary and her diligence in managing her health, and I admire her all the more. I think to myself that if a ten year old kid can manage her diabetes, there is no reason a mature adult can’t.

I guess I could say that I grew up with diabetes. It is a condition that affects multiple people. Although I did not have diabetes, I learned to live with it when Mary and I were so close. We both had to go through learning how to manage it, counting our carbohydrates, and staying away from sweets. We both tested our blood sugar and counted the insulin doses. I love Mary and hope the best for her in her future, and am so proud of her for taking control of her diabetes and for not letting it control her life.