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A Day In The Life Of A Superhero: When Children Have Type-1 Diabetes

06/12/2016 1:12 PM IST | Updated 07/12/2016 9:07 AM IST
Seth Joel

About 70,000 children are diagnosed with type-1 diabetes every year. They are told early on that they will lead a life filled with challenges that they must manage every day. A diagnosis of type-1 diabetes is a hard one to swallow. More so, when the patient is a child. The disease is usually diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood. Type-1 diabetes occurs when the body, for several reasons not in a person's control, stops producing insulin altogether. With no known cure, type-1 diabetes can only be managed through monitoring and medication every day throughout a person's lifetime. It is very hard for parents to explain to a 10-year-old why all the normal activities such as school, sports, parties, sleepovers and some favourite foods will now have to be eliminated or modified. My single point message today is to say that type-1 diabetes can be kept fully under control for every child affected throughout life with no child or parent having to compromise on the quality of life or give up the dreams and aspirations that guide our achievements as adults.

Armed with fearless determination, self-control, and a shot of insulin, these warriors brave their world and are an inspiration to all who know them.

We have amongst us people who were diagnosed with type-1 diabetes as children and who are now leading successful, normal lives as mothers, fathers, homemakers, professionals, singers, cricketers, and even Olympians. As children, these people became real-life superheroes who did not fight an occasional "bad guy" but learned to fight type-1 diabetes daily.

Here is a glimpse into what life is like for children diagnosed with type-1 diabetes:

Round-the-clock monitoring

Children with type-1 diabetes monitor their blood sugar through the day to check whether the blood sugar levels are under control and to signal their caregivers if the medication needs to be changed. They need parental help to do this when they are young and quickly must learn how to safely prick their finger, measure their blood sugar and record their readings.

Children need to monitor their blood sugar before eating, before and after sports or games, and when they are away from home for longer than usual. Even seemingly mild colds and flus need extra blood sugar monitoring.

Multiple insulin shots

Insulin injections are the mainstay of type-1 diabetes treatment, and children with type-1 diabetes must always carry their insulin with them, no matter where they are. Treatment often starts with two insulin shots (using the insulin pen or syringe) in a day, which may increase with time. Some children use an insulin pump, which is a small device worn around the belt that delivers insulin through a needle in small doses all through the day, with extra doses at meal time.

Special attention at school

Unlike most kids, children with type-1 diabetes must learn to independently manage their condition, when their parents are not around to help. More and more schools are now becoming sensitive to the needs of these children and providing the healthcare support they need.

Children must recognise the signs of low blood glucose, a common complication in type-1 diabetes, and learn what to do in such emergencies. In addition to books and stationery, their school bags also contain insulin, a blood glucose meter and emergency supplies, like juice and glucagon, in case of low blood sugar. Of course, if the child is very young, then teachers or the school nurses may help to check glucose levels, and administer insulin.

Careful meal choices

Diet control is a vital aspect of type-1 diabetes management. Compared to most kids who can eat sweets and chocolates without a second thought, children with type-1 diabetes learn to make healthy food choices from an early age.

Unlike most kids, children with type-1 diabetes must learn to independently manage their condition, when their parents are not around to help.

These children must learn to say "no" to high-carbohydrate food (like French fries) and sugar-loaded desserts and drinks, and reserve them for an occasional treat. On special occasions or festivals, they have to adjust their insulin dosage for the extra carbohydrates.

On the sports field

Games and sports, though a vital aspect of staying healthy, cause the blood sugar levels to drop, which makes it important for children with type-1 diabetes to monitor their blood sugar during and after their games. Low blood sugar can lead to dizziness and make the child feel tired and cranky, but can be treated quickly with a juice or sugary snack.

Superheroes are not only found on a cinema screen. We find young superheroes where we least expect to: in the classroom, on the playground. They may not be flying around with capes, or carrying shields and hammers. Armed instead with fearless determination, self-control, and a shot of insulin, these warriors brave their world and are an inspiration to all who know them.

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