When children get type one diabetes it is not their fault

Over the last couple of years I have posted stories about Bryce Riches of Bairnsdale who will live with type one diabetes for the rest of his life. That journey began when he was 15, he is now 22. Type one is probably not the same diabetes that your adult neighbour or friend has. This is different, as Bryce is keen to point out in the following piece he has written for World Diabetes Day.

By Bryce Riches
13 Nov 2016

Most people who know me would already know because it’s not something I hide, it’s something I say loud and proud, but I am a type one diabetic and this is what a type one diabetic looks like.

As you read this, if you get anything out of it I’d like you to help spread knowledge. I don’t want to be felt sorry for, I want people to understand the difference between type one and type two.

December 18 this year will mark my seven years with type 1 diabetes. I was simply your every day average kid at the time I got an everyday cold that attacked my insulin cells and killed my pancreas. It had nothing to do with my health and fitness and not one day is the same.

It hasn’t got any easier over the seven Years but even when you have a bad day filled with lows or highs you can’t let it get you down because if you do, and you slack off, there are short and long term complications.  And I want to be around for a long time.

For almost the entire time I have injected insulin into my body, usually 3 times a day – twice at night with a fast acting insulin and a long life one.  More if I eat more or need to correct my blood sugar levels.

For the last month I have been trialing a pump in which a little needle sits under my skin attached to an insulin canister in the pump. It slowly releases insulin while I go about my everyday life and then when I eat or need more insulin I simply enter my carbs and allow the pump to release how much I need.

However type one diabetes doesn’t just stop there. It’s certainly not as simple as just “taking insulin”.  You need to carb count and know how much you are eating. You need to factor-in exercise and adjust the insulin intake.

For me I’d say I’m an active, reasonably healthy person, playing football and soccer in the off season and eating well.  But losing weight and exercise is not an easy task. For me to exercise I have to eat before my workout or run, ensure my levels don’t drop low during those activities, and then eat after them to ensure my levels don’t continue to drop low.

It’s not as simple as just not eating carbs and working out. If my levels stay too high, my organs can fail and I can go into a coma. If my levels go to low, I can have blurred vision, slurred speech, usually get angry, can become unconscious.  And if they drop to an extreme low, a can have a seizure and not wake up.

This makes sleep very difficult because I worry that I wouldn’t know if my levels are dropping.  I could not feel myself becoming low and having a fit during my sleep. But over the seven years I am lucky enough to have managed my levels so this has not occurred.  But to keep them managed well I spend hundreds of dollars a month. Insulin and test strips are not cheap.

I get so angry and upset when people don’t understand the difference between type one and type two, and I am judged and not understood.

Below are descriptions that I sourced of the two types.  I hope that this can be spread and people can understand the difference between type one and type two – that people like me had no control over getting type one diabetes.  It was not from being unhealthy or overweight. And yes, if I want to eat pavlova I can eat pavlova.

I hope one day there will be a cure but a cure will not be found without funding and knowledge. Please share this story. Create awareness and understanding.

When the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, type 1 diabetes (previously known as juvenile diabetes) occurs. Symptoms include excessive thirst, hunger, urination, and weight loss. In children and teens, the condition is usually an autoimmune disorder in which specific immune system cells and antibodies produced by the immune system attack and destroy the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes can cause long-term complications, including kidney problems, nerve damage, blindness, and early coronary heart disease, stroke and loss of limbs. To control their blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing diabetes complications, we need regular injections of insulin.

Unlike type 1 diabetes, in which the body can’t produce normal amounts of insulin, in type 2 diabetes the body is unable to respond to insulin normally. Children and teens with this condition tend to be overweight, and it is believed that excess body fat plays a role in the insulin resistance that characterizes the disease. In fact, the rising prevalence of this type of diabetes in kids has paralleled the dramatically increasing rates of obesity among kids in recent years. The symptoms and possible complications of type 2 diabetes are basically the same as those of type 1. Some kids and teens can control their blood sugar level with dietary changes, exercise, and oral medications, but many will need to take insulin injections like those with type 1 diabetes.

Learn more about Bryce’s personal journey in this story we published earlier.

Learn more about Type 1 Diabetes here.