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Learning to Deal With Diabetes : Health: With the support of family, a Woodbridge sophomore made the adjustments to keep her life in control.

April 08, 1993|JAIME LOVE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Jaime Love is a 16-year-old sophomore at Woodbridge High School in Irvine, where she is a writer for Golden Arrow, the student newspaper

Eating brownies. How harmful could that be?

For me, it brought me face to face with a condition I would have to live with the rest of my life.

After eating the brownies, I became extremely thirsty and had to go to the bathroom every five minutes. I walked into my parents' room with a large glass of water and told them what was happening. My father said that it could be diabetes because of the symptoms and a family history of the disease. I was 12 years old.

I had no idea what diabetes was, but I knew my grandfather had been diabetic and that the disease has something to do with the pancreas.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday April 22, 1993 Orange County Edition View Part E Page 3 Column 4 View Desk 2 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Diabetes--An article on diabetes in High Life on April 8 should have stated that insulin reactions can be triggered by too little food in proportion to the amount of insulin taken. Also, while diabetes is usually heriditary, environmental factors can be a cause.

We had some urine test strips in the medicine cabinet, and I checked to see if my urine was filled with sugar. It was. My father called hospitals and clinics until he found the one that he thought sounded best. The following day, we took a trip to Children's Hospital of Orange County.

As I entered the hospital with my family, I assumed I'd be there no longer than that afternoon. What a surprise it was when I learned I had to stay an entire week!

That week was the longest of my life. Every two hours I was pricked, monitored or fed. My finger was pricked to check my blood sugar. My general health was monitored, and I was given food, including a lot of fruit juice, to raise my blood sugar to normal.

I was diagnosed as having Diabetes Type 1, a disorder in which there is not enough insulin in my body to put the food I eat into my cells to use for energy. I would need to take injections of insulin to make up for the human insulin that my pancreas does not supply.

For the first couple of nights in the hospital, my older sister, Heather, stayed with me. I remember crying and not believing that I had diabetes. She held and comforted me that night.

In my educational sessions, it was hard for me to understand what diabetes was. My family and I spent hours learning about it.

I vividly remember the first insulin injection I gave myself. It was in my right leg, and my parents, brother and sister were there. I felt my heart beating and my hands shaking. I pinched my leg and selected the site I would use. With one swift movement, the syringe was in, emptied and out--before I could even tell if it hurt. To this day, I can't remember if it hurt, but I felt so good after injecting my first shot of insulin. I had done it, and I would be able to do it again.

It was difficult to cope, but because my family and I are quite close, I was able to do it. They were by my side when I cried and when I needed a shoulder to lean on. Without their support and love, I would not have been able to get through this trying time in my life.

The first year was a hard one. I had to eat right, take the right amount of insulin, keep my blood sugar under control and make regular visits to the doctor.

I still must follow these guidelines, but it tends to be easier now because I understand diabetes much better. In the first stage, it was tough because I didn't have the experience I do now.

*

Diabetics live normal lives; in fact, diabetics tend to have a longer than average life span. Diabetics who follow their diet plan and keep their condition under control are able to lead an active lifestyle.

I eat small amounts for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with small snacks between. I eat a certain amount of various food types each day. If I eat too much of any certain type, I could get an insulin reaction. I can still eat sugar, all types of food and even brownies; I just eat them in moderation.

I always give myself the insulin injections. I take two injections daily--in the morning before breakfast and in the evening before dinner. I inject it into my legs, stomach and upper arms. It's probably hard to believe, but my stomach is the least painful place to inject myself. When I spend the night with friends, sometimes they like to watch me take the shot. I also use a machine to measure my blood sugar, and they sometimes use it to measure theirs.

One of the myths about diabetes is that it is caused by consuming too much sugar. Diabetes is hereditary. Symptoms that reveal the onset of diabetes are frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, excessive thirst or extreme fatigue. Diabetes is not contagious in any way.

I've had diabetes for almost four years now. I try to stay positive and realize that a cure will soon be a reality, but until then, I take heart in knowing that I can control diabetes. It does not control me.

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