Amazing Insight, Inspiration & Tips From 11-Year Old, Unstoppable Charlie.
November is National Diabetes Month, so to learn more, Cat Kom, founder of Studio SWEAT onDemand, asked guest Charlie to join her for a 10 minute chat. Charlie is an inspirational 11-year-old that got very sick when she was in 3rd grade, and it turned out the reason was that she had type 1 diabetes. In this enjoyable conversation, here are some things Charlie and Cat covered.
What’s the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
- Type 1 – This is considered an autoimmune disease. The pancreas totally stops working and you’re completely dependent on insulin. Medication is required to treat type 1 diabetes, and diet and exercise are very important to help control symptoms. Charlie wears an “Omni pod” which is an insulin pump connected to an app that helps her calculate insulin doses based on her carbohydrate intake.
- Type 2 – The pancreas struggles to produce insulin, but patients may very likely control insulin levels by exercising and practicing healthy nutrition.
What are some warning signs:
In Charlie’s case, she was losing weight, was constantly thirsty, was experiencing swings in energy levels, and sometimes got headaches. Right before her diagnosis, she was so sick that she was even throwing up. If you see these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Drinking a ton of water/feeling always thirsty
- Peeing a lot
- Bad headaches
- Throwing up
Did you know?
- In 1980, there were approximately 108 million people, worldwide, with diabetes. There are now 400 million people with diabetes.
- Only 5% of all cases are type 1, meaning 95% of diabetes may be able to be controlled with exercise and good nutrition.
- From 2000 to now (2021) there has been over a 5% increase in premature mortality (death) from type 1 diabetes.
- In 2019, 1.5 million deaths were directly associated with diabetes, and 2.2 million were attributed to high blood glucose.
- Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, and lower limb amputation.
- Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with diet and exercise, as well as regular screening (testing) by your doctor.
What’s it like being a kid with diabetes?
Charlie has an amazing attitude and is quite insightful about her journey, but she shares that there are good and bad days, and she can get emotional about her situation. She’s had to take control of her health in a way that very few children do (how many kids do you know who are able to calculate their carb intake?). But she’s found support from friends in similar situations, through time at Camp Wana Kura (a camp just for kids with diabetes), and like most tweens, they continue to keep in touch texting and chatting throughout the rest of the year.
Like many kids her age, Charlie loves to play sports, so when she’s playing soccer, she does need to have some fruit juice on hand in case her blood sugar levels drop too low. But with type 1 diabetes, it’s actually more common for blood sugar levels to get too high (for reference, the normal range is about 80-120, but really high could go to 500-800 untreated). If her levels get too high, the sports help bring her levels back down.
For Charlie, the worst feeling was right before her diagnosis, when she was getting so sick and she didn’t know why. She also wanted to sleep and not eat at all, which can be due to extremely low blood sugar.
Cat also suggests that if you’re a parent of a child with diabetes, it’s important to share that information with anyone hosting your child. She had an experience once with a friend of her son’s who was over to play and got super pale and close to passing out when his blood sugar dropped extremely low. Thankfully with insulin pumps and monitoring systems, it’s rare to have an unexpected extreme change in blood sugar without notification.
Words of advice from Charlie:
- Eat foods that are good for you like meats, lots of veggies, and cheese.
- Always monitor your blood sugar.
- If you’ve got type 1, don’t snack (you can forget to dose and get too high).
- Stay healthy.
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