By: Brenda Neugent
When Tommy Kelley was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes three years ago, while he was in eighth grade, he had a hard time finding information that related to him.
“I noticed the clear lack of diabetes education and support for teens,” says the 17-year-old from Needham, Mass.
So Kelley launched “Teen Diabetes Guide,” a nonprofit website designed to bring teens with type 1 diabetes together.
Through surveys of more than 50 other teens, he learned that most-a whopping 90 percent-feel as though something good has come out of their diabetes diagnosis.
“I have a more optimistic outlook on life,” wrote one teen. “It brought me my strength, new friends, and a healthier lifestyle.”
“Nothing will stop you from accomplishing what you want, even if you have type 1 diabetes,” another wrote.
Others note perks like being given longer test-taking times in the classroom, the chance to meet celebrities, and the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends at diabetes-themed summer camp programs. Another was happy to be able to snag the first spot in amusement park lines.
Of those Kelley surveyed, 68 percent wear an insulin pump, and an overwhelming majority said that it helps them better manage their diabetes. Many also used exercise to help regulate blood sugar levels.
In addition to the survey responses, the site also includes information on exercise and teen-friendly reviews on insulin pumps and other diabetic testing supplies.
By bringing together teens dealing with the same issue, Kelley uses his site to target his specific audience, filling the void he noticed when he was first diagnosed.
“The idea behind this was to survey teenagers diagnosed with diabetes and get their personal answers to many questions newly diagnosed teens might be having,” he says.
Most teens surveyed said that their initial feelings of fear, anger, and being overwhelmed have dissipated with time, though almost all of them expressed concerns about their long-term health.
Kelley also includes a host of tips-low-carb foods, websites with more information, and links to additional resources-to provide essential information for anyone facing a new diagnosis.
Through his site, he is hoping to help ease fears for his peers after a type 1 diagnosis while making sure they know that they are anything but alone.
To visit Kelley’s site, go to teendiabetes.tumblr.com.