Sophomore Elizabeth Killough gets up at about 5:45 a.m. She has to eat breakfast, get dressed and catch her bus. However, her foremost thoughts aren't getting to school on time or remembering to bring her P.E. clothes. She has to remember to test her blood sugar and take 10 units of insulin.
Killough is one of the 18.2 million Americans who currently suffer from diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The incidence of diabetes among adolescents has steadily increased over the past decade. The two major types of diabetes are type one, when the body doesn't produce enough insulin. Type two diabetes, when the body doesn't use the existing insulin correctly.
Killough has had type one diabetes since she was twelve. Fatigue and dehydration were her first warning signs that something was wrong. "I was thirsty, I had to have a drink every five minutes, and I was tired," says Killough.
Now Killough takes insulin shots every four hours and tests her blood two times a day. It took Killough time to get used to injecting herself with a needle for the insulin shot. "I couldn't stand taking the shot. I didn't like needles, and I used to cry when I had to take it, but I need it to stay alive, so I got used to it," Killough says.
Burdened with the daily rituals, Killough is aware of the side effects that her disease can cause, such as kidney failure, lost limbs, going blind and, in some cases, infertility. If the disease isn't kept under control on a day-to-day basis people can experience other problems. "When I first came to Blair I blacked out. My friends thought I was dizzy because they didn't know about [my diabetes]," Killough says.
Jeremy Ackerman, a 1992 Blair graduate, is a type one diabetic. For the past seven years, has worked at Camp Carolina Trails, a camp for children and teens with diabetes. Ackerman has seen the number of children at his camp with type two diabetes rise over the past few years. "Seven years ago almost everyone was type one's. Now 30 percent or more is type two."
Ackerman has been battling diabetes since he was 15. When Ackerman attended Blair he took two insulin shots a day and had to check his blood sugar four times per day. "I had to eat snacks at regular times and I had some trouble with substitute teachers with the whole eating in class issue," says Ackerman.
Ackerman is one of the founding members of International Diabetic Expedition to Aconcagua (IDEA 2000). IDEA 2000 is a group of diabetics who enjoy mountaineering and extreme sports. In 1998 Ackerman and 15 other type one diabetics from around the world traveled to Argentina to climb Cerro Aconcagua, which is the highest point in the Western Hemisphere. The founding members started IDEA 2000 not only because of their love for extreme sports, but also to become role models for other diabetics. "The stereotypes of diabetics are of elderly and overweight people, but even being diabetic you can be active," Ackerman says.
Ackerman believes that even though diabetes is a serious disease, diabetics can still lead quality lives. "Although having diabetes is a life long disease, and it's hard to find faith in a finding a cure, it's a livable disease and it doesn't have to get in the way of living a full life."
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