Transitioning myself and my diabetes successfully to college.
August 2006 — Brushing the sand off my Reefs last weekend and throwing my beach bag in the trunk of the car, it dawned on me that there are only a few weekends left in the summer. Slamming the trunk shut, I thought about my life a few summers ago, getting ready to move off to college for the first time.
After discussing my diabetes management with the college dean of admissions, it was decided that my diabetes supplies were to be kept in my dorm room in a lockable container, alleviating any fear of people stumbling across my syringes and lancets. It was the oddest Back-To-School shopping trip I had ever experienced. Of course, there were the standard clothes purchases and restocking of school supplies, but I was the only college newbie who made the hardware store an integral part of her preparation. My mom and I purchased the biggest red tackle box we could find and a padlock to go with it. It safely housed all of my supplies.
In addition to this tackle box, I also had a Tupperware container filled with low blood sugar reaction supplies. Fruit roll-ups, juice boxes, raisins, tubes of insta-glucose, peanut butter crackers … it was a potluck of fast-acting, just-in-case carbs. And there were cake gel tubes to treat lows stashed everywhere. I had one in every purse, in my testing kit, the bedside table, the bathroom. I looked like I had a bakery fetish.
Aside from my cache of snacks, there were a few other tricks up my sleeve. Tucked inside my wallet, right beside my license, was a medic alert card that read, "My name is Kerri Morrone. I have type 1 diabetes. If I appear disoriented or intoxicated, please allow me to test my bloodsugar as I may need sugar." I also had my trusty diabetes medic alert bracelet circling my wrist. Emergency contact numbers were pasted to my computer tower.
All of my diabetes accoutrements were in order. All I needed to do was start disclosing my condition to my new roommate and my new friends.
Growing up, everyone around me had always just known. They knew me growing up, before I was diagnosed, and they learned about the disease as I did. Diagnosed as a little kid, my mom took care of explaining everything to my friends' parents. "Kerri has diabetes. She tests her blood sugar and takes insulin. I brought some sugar-free peanut butter cups for when the other kids have dessert. If she looks a little lost, she might need some juice. Oh, and she talks incessantly. That has nothing to do with diabetes." There was no need for me to give a big explanation, as my mother made sure she took care of it.
This whole college thing. Whole different story. Here I was, thrust into an enormous state university where I didn't know my roommate or anyone who lived in my 300-person dorm, for that matter.
I barely knew this girl's name … how was I going to tell her that I had diabetes? How would she react to my red tackle box filled with syringes? Would she think it was weird to see my little army of white insulin boxes standing at attention in our dorm room fridge? What about if my blood sugar plummets and I need her to help me? For that brief moment, I panicked. How was I going to do this?
When I received my roommate contact information a few weeks before college started, I called my new roommate and introduced myself. We talked about where we were from, what bands we were listening to, and what we were majoring in. She told me she played the cello and would be practicing in the room sometimes. I told her I had diabetes and would be shooting up in the bathroom.
"Really? You take needles?"
"Yeah. I've had diabetes since I was a little kid. It's not a huge deal. All the needles and stuff will be locked up in a tackle box, so you'll probably never see them."
The conversation gently shifted back to her music career and her life in upstate NY. I told her about my aspirations to be a writer. I breathed easier.
The summer ended and my first day as a college freshman loomed near. After a full day of moving all my stuff into the university dorms, my parents kissed me on the cheek and the door clicked shut behind them as they left. Me, a college freshman. I shook my head in disbelief as I started to unpack. Clothes in the closet. Tackle box on the bed. Books spilled out across my desk.
The door opened and my new roommate walked in, suitcases in hand.
She smiled. "I'm Julie." She paused and took note of the red tackle box on the bed.
"I'm ready to go fishing whenever you are."
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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