By: Austin Cooper
Before diabetes, I was a normal teenager whose greatest worry was whether I’d get an A or a B on a test. I was strong and healthy. Somehow, I took for granted all the freedoms that diabetes took away from me. Last year, at the age of fifteen, I learned that every day, even every breath, that we are given is a true gift.
I hoped it was all just a nightmare. I awoke to countless tubes running in and out of my body. I could remember only bits and pieces of the whole ordeal. I had been vacationing at my cousins’ house and thought that I had the flu. I was really thirsty and weak, but decided I just needed more rest. By the end of the week, my health was in a downward spiral. I began losing both my vision and my ability to think clearly. I was so scared and confused. I didn’t know what was happening to me.
I soon fell into a semi-conscious state and was rushed first to the local hospital and then to the ICU at Seattle Children’s Hospital. When I woke up, the doctor told me that I had type 1. Those words shot back and forth in my head. I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t think teenagers were supposed to have their lives threatened by disease, and now it had just happened to me!
The doctors were able to get my body under control just in time (my blood glucose was first measured at a dangerous 1588). I can remember short moments of time when I thought that I was dying. I knew that everything I loved was going to go away, but somehow I was able to accept it. Being so close to death forever changed my outlook on life. At a young age, I realized that in the long run, things like popularity or looks don’t matter. I had to totally re-evaluate my priorities. I would never again take for granted the things that truly mattered to me.
Before my disease, I liked to think that I was invincible and that nothing could stop me. Now, I felt so fragile and, in a way, defeated. I really did not want to live this way for the rest of my life. Instead of letting this disease weigh me down, I chose early on to let it challenge me to achieve great things.
With diabetes as my motivator, I was able to make the most of my every day. I was given a second chance, and now I wanted desperately to give back to make a difference. I got sympathy from my friends and family who felt bad, but that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to show them that diabetes had not defeated me. I wanted to show them how strong I really was.
Finally, my chance came. My doctors continually urged me to wear a medical ID bracelet. It wasn’t that I didn’t have one (I actually had four); it was that I didn’t like any of them. I couldn’t believe that there weren’t more stylish options for people to wear. So I decided to design my own line of medical bracelets under the label Evasion ID.
This was my avenue to give back and show those around me that I had not given up. I knew that if I dedicated my life to something larger than myself, it would help to heal some of the hurt and diminish some of the struggles of diabetes.
It would have been very easy for me to stand by and feel sorry for myself, but that is not the kind of person I wanted to be. Often, the easy thing is not always the right thing. I believe that each of us has a God-given purpose and that a hardship is no excuse for giving up. I think of diabetes as a tool in an ugly disguise. Dealing with this disease is difficult, but if you look through history, you will find that the people who leave the biggest legacies often lived the most difficult lives.
Diabetes is a battle that I fight everyday. Diabetes is scary, annoying, and sometimes embarrassing. My life can sometimes be a roller coaster with highs and lows of both my blood sugar and my emotions. The good news is that this disease does not have to defeat us. In fact it has the potential to positively define us. I’ve learned that once you make your hardship your motivator, you will start to live a life of great significance and leave behind a lasting legacy.