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A Day in the Life of Matthew: Living with Type 1 Diabetes

Published on Nov. 30, 2020

My name is Matthew, and I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes two years ago. This means that my pancreas does not produce enough insulin for my body to maintain the appropriate sugar (or glucose) level I need in order to sustain my energy. Too much insulin will cause my sugar to be too high and not enough insulin can make my sugar too low. In both cases, I won’t feel so great.

As a result, I carry a TANDEM insulin pump and Dexcom to continuously monitor my blood sugar level and so that I don’t have to poke my finger to test a blood drop (which can be common testing for many diabetics). At 14 years old, this technology helps me live my life without too many disruptions.

Some days are easier than others, so follow me as I go about my Thursday:

8:40 a.m. -- I wake up and check my blood sugar before breakfast. It was 196, which is normal. I have eggs and bacon but avoid the toast. As a diabetic, I try to avoid sugar and carbs because it can cause my sugar level to rise.

9 a.m. -- Virtual learning -- during first period, my Dexcom meter starts to beep. It sounds like a truck backing up. Even my friends know that when this alerts me, my sugar is either too high or too low. Right now, it is a little low. So I mute my Zoom and turn off my camera to quickly grab a glass of apple juice (this is my go-to to get my sugar to rise because it has so much sugar). If I was physically at school, I would have to go to the nurse’s office, but this is one benefit of learning from home.

10 a.m. -- It is second period and virtual learning continues with P.E. band class. This little bit of activity couldn’t have come at a better time. BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! There goes my Dexcom again. I check my sugar — 305, which is a little higher than I would like it to be. I must have had too much apple juice. This explains the headache I have (common when my sugar is high). I am going to wait a little while to check it again and hope that my sugar levels out.

10:55 a.m. -- Today we are watching a video in English class and taking notes. My head still hurts and I can feel that my sugar level is still on the higher side, so I correct it with one unit of insulin. This will be just enough to drop my blood glucose by 40 mg/dl. (A little bit of math during English class may not be common for most kids, but basic math is part of my every day.)

11:45 a.m. -- Now it is time for my ACTUAL math class – but reviewing graphs and tables is not my favorite!

12:30 p.m. -- Lunch time at last! I check my sugar before I eat and it is 150. I snack on some ham and cheese and take a quick 15-minute nap before my next class.

1 p.m. -- Science class starts and I have a major test today. I am feeling better now than I did this morning -- the nap helped, my headache is gone and my sugar is stable at 130.

1:50 p.m. -- It is time for yearbook class. Today we are working on layouts and editing pictures. It has been a few hours since lunch and I can feel my sugar getting low. I take a break to eat a sandwich and drink some water.

3:30 p.m. -- I get to baseball practice and check my sugar. It is 110. Since it is a bit on the lower side, I drink some orange juice – just enough to get my sugar above 150. Before practice, I disconnect my Dexcom so that it doesn’t break and I like to make sure that my levels are just right before doing this.

5:30 p.m. -- It is dinner time and I definitely worked up an appetite at practice, so I will be sure to give myself a few extra units of inulin to splurge on my mom’s steak, salad, rice and chocolate cake.

6:30 p.m. -- I change my transmitter on the Dexcom (needed every 10 days) and my insulin pump site on the TANDEM (needed every three days). 

7:30 p.m. -- I take a shower while my pump is on the charger. Since I disconnected my insulin pump, I have to wait three hours for the Dexcom sensor to reconnect.

8 p.m. -- While doing homework, my sugar feels high. Since my Dexcom is on the charger, I have to manually check my sugar by poking my finger and putting a drop of blood on a test strip. It is 400, so I give myself a few units to drop my sugar level a bit.

10:30 p.m. -- I am done with homework. My Dexcom has not reconnected so I check my sugar by poking my finger again – it is 299. At this level, it is safe for me to go to sleep. But I set my alarm for 11:30 p.m. to re-check my blood levels and make sure that the Dexcom reconnects.

All in all, living with diabetes has made me more mindful of what I do, eat and drink. My condition forces me to plan and prepare more than most kids my age. At all times, I have my glucagon, snacks, test strips, blood glucose meter, insulin, infusion set, cartridge and syringes in case of an emergency. If I can manage, others can, too!

I am thankful that my condition is manageable and that I have the support from my family, teachers, coaches and doctors. Because of my support team, I feel like I get to lead an active life.

Written by Matthew Gil, a type 1 diabetic and Valley Children’s patient