By: Mauryn Toole ’20
Teenagers taking their next steps into the adult world crave independence. It is vital as we want others to know that we can do well on our own. Many teens realize they aren’t capable of doing certain things on their own and constantly fend for their parents to do it. However, there are more that make it on their own, and few understand the importance of taking care of yourself better than 23 year-old, JT Toole.
JT was diagnosed with type one diabetes at the age of four. His days consists of constantly monitoring his blood sugar and having to perform multiple insulin injections. The autoimmune disease requires much attention from the patient, as it destroys the body’s ability to produce insulin on its own.
Therefore type one diabetics, like JT, have to rely on lifelong insulin treatment for survival. The fight for a cure continues to rattle as researchers develop innovative new medicines and technologies, giving diabetics hope for what lies ahead.
Although many people are aware of type one diabetes, they don’t know what it’s like to live with it. They don’t know about having to carry around glucose tabs and a case full of supplies, such as a pump and a finger pricker.
“Many people aren’t aware about the episodes where I woke up in the middle of the night because my blood sugar was low, and the fact that on those nights I was never able to fall back asleep due to the fear of never waking back up,” said Toole.
JT was one of the few students in a school filled to the brim with other students that were constantly questioning what he had to do differently since he is a diabetic. Those students were also the ones to give him judgmental stares when he pulled out his kit of bolis for something to eat. The other students didn’t realize JT was continuously being told what and when to eat.
When discussing how he felt when he had to pull out a snack in the middle of class, Toole responded with “It’s like everyone around me didn’t realize I was dealing with an incurable disease. It’s not like I asked to have diabetes, nor could I have prevented it. It is something I have grown to live with.”
Although diabetics must constantly monitor their body and decide what to do, they aren’t alone. They have plenty of support, whether it be from family, friends or even the school, they always have someone they can go to.
Regis Jesuit Girls Division school nurse, Mrs. Dwyre, has vast experience with type one diabetes. Dwyer has noticed differences in the treatments provided for diabetic students.
“When I first graduated from nursing school, I worked in a hospital where I saw quite a few diabetic patients. But the methods that they used to give insulin have completely changed since I graduated, which is fabulous,” Dwyer said. “They now have these pumps that they regulate to their cell phones now. The technology for diabetes is amazing and has improved greatly, making it easier for the patients and myself.”
A school nurse can play a key role in a diabetics life as they are often the ones the students go to when they know something isn’t right, especially when they are in school and their parents aren’t around. JT Toole took the time to tell us about one experience he had, where the school nurse saved him from a trip to the Emergency Room.
Diabetics can experience severe highs in blood sugar known as hyperglycemia, or severe lows in blood sugar known as hypoglycemia, which can ultimately result in a diabetic coma, rendering them unconscious. JT experienced a severe low during class his freshman year of high school.
“I was just sitting in English, taking notes, when I got a weird feeling. I was very hungry and knew I needed to eat something before it was too late.”
However, it was too late. JT was now completely still and completely silent. With a pale and expressionless face, JT was unresponsive and frozen to his seat. JT was experiencing a severe low. Luckily, the school nurses knew what to do.
Mrs. Dwyer explained that she would have known what to do in this situation. She said, “If we have a low blood sugar student, we give them sugar right away. Usually we try and do some type of carbohydrate because that’ll increase their sugar at a better rate, but sometimes we just have to give them straight sugar from a packet.”
Fortunately, JT had glucose tabs on him that he was able to eat.
“When my blood sugar raised and went back to normal, I couldn’t remember anything that had just happened. I was scared, however I pushed that aside because I wanted to show everyone that I was okay.”
More of these frightening highs and lows happened throughout his high school career and continue to happen to this day. They are something he has learned to live with, as he has worked to control them by constantly monitoring his blood sugar.
Type one diabetics are quietly living with an untreatable disease that many people overlook. They continue to fight for their lives, and even more so, fight for a cure. JT knows this all too well.
“I live my life as any other non-diabetic person would, with the slight exception that I am more cautious about what I am doing. Whether it be playing sports, or simply catching up with an old friend at lunch. I have to scan what I’m eating to make sure it is a safe amount. One tiny slip up could mean my life. I can’t ever cheat myself, I have to be on top of things at all times.”