I am excited to have this opportunity to write a diabetes-focused blog for Diabetes Health about living and thriving with type 1 diabetes. First of all, I am extremely passionate about racing road and mountain bicycles, running 5K runs and sprint triathlons, and doing other activities that I find to compete in for Team Type 1. But before I start blogging, I would like to tell a little about myself.
I am 22 years old and have had type 1 since I was seven years old. I remember the first time I met my endocrinologist, Dr. Larry Deeb, in Tallahassee, Florida. He walked into my room at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, looked over a chart with various notes, grabbed my thigh, and injected me with insulin. Then he said something along the lines of “For the rest of your life, you will need multiple injections of insulin daily, along with multiple finger sticks.” And that was that.
By the time I was 12 years old, I was monitoring my diabetes as prescribed and in good health. I spent most of my time staying active by riding and competing horses and working at a horse farm. I am the type of person who likes to be self-sufficient, and I wanted to be in charge of injecting myself and checking my blood glucose. I wanted what kids refer to as “responsibility.” Everything was healthy in my diabetes world until I started high school, when I slowly started not doing as I was told in every aspect in my life. If my mom and dad asked, “What is your blood sugar? Did you do your injection? Do you need anything?” I would instinctively lie just to be a stubborn, obnoxious teenager. Looking back now, I realize that they were just trying to look out for me, but at the time it was as if they were trying to be nosy. I behaved like a normal teenager, and it started to take a serious toll on my health. By the time I was 16 years old, my A1C had managed to hit over 16%. Not my finest moment, I know!
I got myself in that spot by gradually skipping more and more blood glucose readings. When I would finally check, I found ways to make my blood sugar read lower. For instance, I would wet my fingers with water prior to checking. I would only do my 24-hour insulin when my mom was watching me at night, and soon I started skipping more and more meal-time injections. I was supposed to go to my endocrinologist every three months so that he could keep an eye on my A1C readings. The staff would always question me when my 14-day average on my glucose monitor was 130 mg/dL, but my A1C was 12% or 13%.
I remember dreading those visits because I knew that my A1C was going to be high. It was annoying and nerve-wracking having my parents and physician grill me on when my blood glucose history looked perfect on paper but my A1C was through the roof. So I decided not to go to my scheduled visits for a nine-month stretch. I pulled this off by calling the office, pretending to be my mom, and saying, “Morgan cannot make it to her appointment this week because…” It worked a few times, but then everyone caught on to what I was doing.
I remember going to my first visit back after my nine-month hiatus and giving the nurse a blood sample. A few minutes later, Dr. Deeb walked in with the nurse, gave me the scariest look I have ever seen from him, and said, “The A1C monitor only goes to 14%. Your reading was too high for it to read. I am sending you to the lab.” Dr. Deeb is very calm and not a mean person whatsoever, but when he gives you the “disappointed” look, it would make a grown man cry. I know it made me cry for sure.
When the A1C machine in the office could not read my A1C and I had to make a special trip to the lab to figure it out, it was a wake-up call for me. After that office visit, I was put on an insulin pump, which helped lower my A1C. I started checking a little bit more, but not nearly as much as I should have been. Within a few months my A1C was back in the low teens just because I was now getting more insulin from the pump.
This entire time, my parents were trying to find ways to help me out without pissing off their moody teenage daughter. It must have been an extremely difficult task! They were finally successful in getting me on the right track in 2006, when they introduced me to Phil Southerland of Team Type 1.
Parents often ask me what they should do to get their teen to be compliant. My advice is to provide your children with as many opportunities as possible to be surrounded by people with diabetes whom they admire. It might be going to Children With Diabetes in Orlando, attending a diabetes summer camp, or going to a cycling race to watch Team Type 1. Having my parents and physician talk to me about it all the time just annoyed me and did not do any good. What motivated me to take care of myself was actually getting to help eight elite athletes with type 1 do the Race Across America in the summer of 2006. During that summer, I changed from a non-compliant 17-year-old to an aspiring cyclist for Team Type 1.
In my next blog entry, I will tell my story of getting to watch Team Type 1 race 3,000 miles across the United States and how it inspired me to manage my diabetes and start racing for Team Type 1.