Teens’ lives complicated by diabetes
Berkeley Springs High School senior Mike Jenkins was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in December, 2010 when he was 15 and in his sophomore year.
He was sick before Christmas that year, and his mother thought he had the flu. On the fourth day, he went to a doctor. His blood sugar level was too high for the meter to read. A blood test placed his blood sugar at a dangerous 1,400.
Jenkins was immediately put on insulin shots and an insulin drip and was hospitalized for three days. He now uses an insulin injection pen, but doesn’t have to take insulin often since his pancreas still produces a little insulin.
While he played soccer during his sophomore year, he couldn’t in his junior year since his blood sugar wasn’t under control.
On junior prom night, his blood sugar dropped very low to 40. He was passing out and couldn’t talk. Luckily, his friends knew what to do and gave him Pepsi and carbohydrates to raise his blood sugar.
Jenkins feels living with diabetes has made him healthier. He lost 40 pounds after his diagnosis because he had to change his eating habits. He generally eats less carbs, less food and lots of protein.
When 17-year-old Harrison McBee was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes last March, he thought he had low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. Every time his sugar felt low, he drank orange juice or ate a candy bar.
McBee was fatigued for around a week and couldn’t get out of bed. He fell asleep in school and almost passed out playing basketball.
His mom took him to the hospital, where they found his blood sugar level was over 1200. He ended up spending three days in intensive care.
Newly diagnosed, McBee has to check his blood sugar before every meal and two hours after meals. He learned to count carbohydrates and adjust his food intake and insulin based on his blood sugar readings.
Blood sugar swings
McBee said some days his blood sugar is well under control and other times it’s not. His blood sugar was high one day recently and then dropped to around 40 after lunch. He passed out and fell asleep.
This makes playing basketball very difficult. McBee has to eat just before practice because his blood sugar drops with exercise. He injects insulin into his upper arm every night with a long-acting insulin pen, which hurts.
Having Type 1 diabetes has sparked his interest in a nursing career and he is taking Health Occupations classes at James Rumsey Technical College.
Senior Nathan Quarantillo, now 18, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age nine. His parents are both doctors, so they picked up on the symptoms and diagnosed it pretty early.
Quarantillo went for three months without insulin and then did insulin shots. He’s had an insulin pump for about seven years and this has given more flexibility to his life.
Quarantillo can sense when his blood sugar is higher or lower now and can estimate how much insulin he needs without checking his blood sugar.
He has done soccer and various extracurricular activities since he was five. He’s also into snowboarding, fencing, archery and historical reenactments.
He thinks that having diabetes has made him a better person. He was a little overweight before and might be less healthy if he wasn’t eating healthier foods because of the diabetes.
Mike Jenkins said he almost died from the disease and it changed his life. He used to spend all of his time in the basement and never went anywhere with friends. Now he’s always out with friends.
Harrison McBee agreed, “It changes you.”
Junior Ivory Bittorie, 17, learned she had Type 1 diabetes when she was about four. She was ill and they didn’t know why. She remembers being in the hospital a long time.
After Bittorie was diagnosed, she did insulin shots for about a year. She was put on an insulin pump, which made things easier.
Bittorie started school late because her diabetes wasn’t under control.
Diabetes has limited her activities and the injections are painful. She had to give up swimming and dance class because of issues with her insulin pump. She’s often been sick, and it’s been a difficult struggle.
“You guys are just too cool,” she said of Quarantillo’s and Jenkins’ positive attitudes.
Bittorie noted that families are also really affected by young people’s diabetes. “They go through so much,” she said.
If you learn you have Type 1 diabetes, be patient with it, Jenkins said. He said he got depressed and went through an angry phase, but worked through it and is happy now.
Quarantillo saw diabetes as a challenge. Learn how to cope with it, learn your limitations and do what you can in spite of it, he said. He does what he wants to do — track, foot races, soccer, martial arts — and it’s kept him strong.
“Don’t let it stop you,” Quarantillo said.