Meet Bridget! She’s a 26 year old treatment coordinator, Penn State alum, oldest of six, dog mom to Lincoln, and Type 1 Diabetic. Many people don’t realize that Type 1 Diabetes is actually one of the most common autoimmune diseases, affecting 1.25 million Americans. This particular disease can present itself anywhere between childhood to early adulthood – that point for Bridget was one year ago, today!
I have had the pleasure of getting to know Bridget recently through the blog and she is a funny, adventure-loving, and energetic autoimmune disease advocate (go follow @thebetesbabes btw). I am so happy and proud to be able to share her story of diagnosis and life thereafter below!
It was a year ago today, September 27th, on just a normal Tuesday morning, that I received a phone call telling me I was sick. I was admitted into the ER as a 25 year old, female patient. I sat in a hospital bed as the doctor explained how high my blood sugar was. You see, fasting blood sugar should be somewhere between 70-99. I clocked myself in at a dramatic 584. With tears in my eyes and an IV of fluids and insulin in my veins, I began to realize it was going to be anything but just a normal Tuesday morning.
I sat on the bed, defeated. I shouted, “I don’t even like sugar, I swear!” And the doctor refuted my ignorant argument by telling my the scientific breakdown of how carbohydrates turn into sugars. Then our body produces insulin which then covers that sugar and converts it into energy for our cells. My body was no longer producing insulin, as my autoimmune disease prevented that normal function. Therefore the summer body I thought I was being blessed with, was because I was unable to properly nourish myself. I was slowly dying of starvation, and here I thought I was finally going to be a size 2.
“Okay okay okay, I have to tell you something,” as I wiped my eyes and pleaded with the doctor, “my cousin got married on Saturday and I had like 18 pinot grigios so maybe that’s why…” And he shook his head, first telling me how unhealthy it was to slam that many glasses of wine (he didn’t know it was an Irish wedding) and then began to explain my a1c (a three month glucose average) and how again, a “normal” person should have an a1c below 5.7, but in my dramatic fashion, I was a dangerous 11.8. I was discharged from the hospital later that day as a 25 year old, female, Type 1 Diabetic.
It wasn’t some fad diet that I was trying, there was no 21 day fix, this was a completely new life. I learned how to count carbs and figured out my insulin to carb ratio, meaning for me specifically, I need 1 unit of insulin for every 11 grams of carbs I consume. Essentially before I eat I’m dividing and multiplying food labels, finally applying the math my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Dorsey, swore to all of us we’d need for the rest of our lives.
Not only do I need to figure out what I’m eating, but the amount of fiber and fat in my food. Because that can delay the “spike” from the carbs and I need to be able to adjust the amount of insulin I take to cover the rising blood sugars. Do I shoot in my stomach? My arms? Thighs or glutes? Where should I leave these watercolor bruises? Because each body part has a different absorption rate based on the amount of fat there. But before I inject, what is my current level? Something only determined by finger pricking, a sharp and quick pierce drawing blood. I had previously dated a bunch of pricks, so I was somewhat used to the stings, but you can’t just ghost something like this, this is forever.
And of course high blood sugar has it’s long term complications. Blindness, liver and kidney failure, nerve damage are all among the wheel of misfortune should you not take control of your levels. But the real danger of being Type 1 Diabetic, or T1D, lies in the low blood sugar. Something that can send you into an instant seizure. First it’s the shakes, then the sweats, and if untreated, apparently things can go black. Crazy, right?
I learned all of this in one day. I went to sleep that night praying that I would wake up again to relive this Tuesday. That I’d wake up to my alarm and not an unknown number calling to change my life forever. I didn’t have the energy to fight this new war I’d have to wake and fight the rest of my life. I was one day in and already exhausted. And if this was my new life, I wanted to go to sleep that night and not wake up again.But I woke up every morning and lived the days I’d rather have slept through. I became determined to not let this disease diabeat me, I was going to insul(win). Haaaa, okay, enough sweet jokes.
A year later, today – I am incredibly proud of the person I have become. I promised myself that my 25th year would be one of 25 adventures to love, inspire, and define myself. Among which included hiking my first 14,000 ft mountain in the Colorado Rockies, snorkeling in the Dominican Republic, bungee jumping in California. The sugar shock of my diagnosis became the biggest and most defining adventure yet, halting the wild and care-free life I was leading. But a mere 8 days after being diagnosed, I met my first type 1 diabetic, on a bumble date.
My first diabuddy, helping me to learn how to relive a life I thought I was being robbed of. He showed me how to cover hot dogs (my favorite food), how to pack extra insulin on my ongoing adventures, introduced me to a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) that forever changed the way I monitored my levels through a sensor I wear on my body that bluetooths my numbers right to my phone. He taught me how to prepare for the adventure he had been living for 25 years.
And one diabuddy turned into hundreds as social media provided simple hashtags to connect me to people across the world that were fighting the same daily battle as I was. Pretty soon I was helping to run a social media account for type 1 diabetic girls (shout out to @thebetesbabes, go on and give us a follow). And the support network I found in others like myself was life saving. Hundreds of people knowing exactly the struggles I faced were able to sympathize and advise on how to resume play on my adventurous life.
If anything, the last year has taught me the meaning of resilience. Between the good and the bad, the heartwarming and the heartbreaking, I’ve learned to always be stronger than the struggle, braver than the burden, and sweeter than the sugar.
Part of me wishes I could walk down the hallway of the ER, to the crying girl on the hospital bed. I’d hold her hand and tell her everything was going to be okay, that she was going to be okay. I’d tell her in a few months that her a1c would drop down to a 5.5, that she’d learn how to cover hot dogs, and better yet, meet the man of her sweetest dreams on a bumble date. And I bet that 25 year old, female, type one diabetic, would have instead been smiling on that hospital bed.
It’s been quite a year of learning and living to find this place between happy and finally healthy. Though it’s taken me the better part of a year to realize, I have a beyond normal, incredibly lucky and blessed, Type One-derful life.