Hi everyone , I’m Hannah and I’m pretty much your typical 17 year old, I love my friends , horse riding, swimming and I get a bit moody sometimes, I am also a type 1 diabetic. I was diagnosed at the age of 2 in June 1997.
I started presenting with the typical symptoms of type 1 in May of 97 whilst on a family holiday, there was no history of type 1 diabetes in my family and my parents didn’t know of the symptoms associated with diabetes. After getting back we went to see my G.P and luckily he recognized the symptoms right away and carried out a blood glucose test to confirm, my blood glucose level was almost 25mmol/1 or 450mg/dl. When I was first diagnosed there was little patient education and I started on free mixing insulin. Later, I went onto Mixtard pens. I was lucky to have a team who gave me a brilliant positive attitude towards diabetes. I grew up with a consultant who had the attitude of “you’re still a normal kid you just happen to have diabetes... You can do whatever you want” he encouraged me to be independent from a young age. Because of this, I never felt that my childhood was in anyway impaired by my diabetes. I took part in everything which included activity camps and played sports from being young. This lesson is something I’ve carried with me throughout my life.
When I was 12 or 13, I was swapped onto the Basal/Bolus regime and I was one of the first in my local hospital to use it and consequently I feel as though I never got the support or education needed to ensure that I’d be successful on it and I was put on one levemir rather than the split dose needed. At the same time as this the consultant I had since I was 2 years old had retired due to medical reasons. For the next year, I had a different consultant for every appointment, so they never had time to delve into the bad HbA1c. At that age, like so many young teens, I just wanted to 'fit in’ but having to do injections in school didn’t really allow that and my friends at the time didn’t necessarily help. I was also being bullied by a teacher who took a dim view of my diabetes and did not allow me to inject or test in class. All of these factors contributed to me rebelling against my diabetes. I didn’t test regularly and would skip injections. I just wanted to forget about my diabetes and didn’t care about the consequences. I would go on 7 mile walks and not carry any form of glucose or blood glucose monitor with me. My hypos were so bad that I passed out, although it never got through to me that I needed to take it seriously, that was until my current consultant came to the hospital.
At the time, my regular Diabetes Specialist Nurse (DSN) was on maternity leave so we had an amazing temporary one and my consultant. The consultant was very determined and he wouldn’t give up on me and eventually convinced me to take diabetes seriously. During an appointment in January 2011, my A1c was 10.5% and I’ll never forget what he said to me , He said, " Look, I don't want to find out in ten years time that you have bad complications, but the way you’re going, you won’t hit 30!" It finally struck me how very serious diabetes is and overnight I totally changed my view of diabetes. I never missed another injection or blood test, I carb counted religiously and proved that I could do it. I owe my life to that man because I knew that I would be in a very bad way without him, he believed in me and never ever doubted me and I’m so grateful for that. However... my blood sugars never went right, I struggled with dawn phenomena often waking up with a fasting sugar anywhere around 20-30 mmol/1 (360 – 540 mg/dl) and a large number of hypos due to stress (on my bad days can have up to 4 or 5 a day). I was in hospital every month and seeing my DSN every 2 weeks. This had gone on for over a year which obviously took a huge toll on my emotional health and wellbeing
In march of 2011, my team and I had discussed that an insulin pump would be my only option due to the dawn phenomena and the hypos , which would allow me better control in case I needed an operation on my spine because I was having problems with my back at this time. Due to Primary Care Trust funding issues, over a year had passed and there was still no sign of getting the pump and my glucose levels had worsened. My mother eventually intervened by phoning the managers and threatening to go to the newspapers, if they didn’t approve the funding. The funding was approved within a week and I eventually started using an insulin pump in august 2011, and within a month my average blood glucose levels had dropped from 12 to 6.4.
Later, I became very involved with the Diabetes Online Community, using social media in the form of blogging and tweeting to reach other diabetic teenagers. In May 2012 I travelled to London for the first meeting of Diabetes UK ‘Young Leaders’. It is fantastic to meet other people who get what you’re going through and our group really hopes to improve the services for young people with diabetes. I have also taken more of an active role within my local diabetic support group (mainly because my Dr encourages me into it...) and I have been part of events such as the 2012 Cellnovo rowing event with 5x gold medal Olympiad Sir Steve Redgrave.
For me, the most rewarding part of being a young leader/social media & diabetes advocate is when other diabetic teens come to me and say “my blood count is so much better because of your talk”. It gives me great pleasure to think that I was in their position not too long ago and I feel so proud that I was able to turn my diabetes and my whole wellbeing around.
Hannah can be found Here