Talking Type 1

It’s November which means it’s Diabetes Awareness Month, and THAT means I’m writing again about Type 1 diabetes! I do this every year in celebration of my five-year-old granddaughter, M, who lives with this condition every second of every day.

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disorder in which a person’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Prior to the discovery of insulin, T1D was 100% fatal. Frederick Banting and Charles Best co-discovered insulin in 1921, enabling people with T1D to stay alive. Throughout the day, people with T1D need to take insulin via a pump or an injection. They also need to persistently manage their blood glucose levels to avoid potentially fatal levels that are too high or too low. Managing T1D is a full-time job. 

There are still many misconceptions about Type 1 diabetes (frequently confused with the more common Type 2). You can dispel any myths and expand your knowledge via some useful internet sources: 

The JDRF site is always a reliable, current source of evidence-based information which also offers information on how to put pressure on insurance companies to stop the skyrocketing costs of insulin to help people with T1D have affordable access to insulin and other diabetes supplies to stay alive and well.

Whenever I want to understand a condition or diagnosis, in addition to reading research and reliable information, I love hearing from people who are directly affected. Their individual “lived” experience and insights gives me a fuller picture of the impact on the whole person, rather than just on a malfunctioning body part. This funny seven-minute video gives excellent advice on what NOT to say to a person with T1D.

Raising awareness and challenging misconceptions, Madeline Milzark, a Missouri teen with T1D, created a Facebook post that went viral as she described the real faces of T1D, beginning her post with the following: “Diabetes isn’t your piece of cake, or that super sized McDonald’s meal with extra fries, or anything you see coated with sugar. Diabetes is an 18 year old girl sitting on her bathroom floor shaking and not able to breathe because her blood sugar dropped and praying her grandma’s phone is near her and she got the text message to bring some sugar since she’s too weak to yell and the whole room is spinning.” Please take a few minutes to read Madeline’s entire post and watch her video.

Occupational Therapy snippet: Working with people with diabetes falls under the domain of occupational therapy. From medication management to the psychosocial aspects of living with a high-maintenance life-or-death condition; from addressing any physical long-term complications to advocacy; from supporting individuals to working with families or communities, OT practitioners are capable and well-suited to deliver occupation-based, client-centered care to people with diabetes.

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