One of my travel companions is a type I diabetic. He’s a friend of one of my friends who came along for the ride, so I had never met him before arriving in Budapest. Having never spent any real time with a type I diabetic, I bombarded him with questions and he was really cool about humouring my curiosity (thanks Chris!) and answering whatever I wanted to know, which was, pretty much everything.
So here’s what I learned*:
1. Blood sugar ought to be tested five times a day, but people who have been living with it for an extended period of time often don’t test themselves that often; they tend to go on how they feel, which is a pretty reliable meter.
2. Diabetic comas aren’t sudden onset like they are on TV. They take days and days of high blood sugar accumulation to take effect. The result, however, is almost always death.
3. Diabetic fits happen when the blood sugar gets too low and it can get pretty ugly (he’s got some pretty gruesome stories — one involving swearing at the paramedics who were trying to give him that high sugar gel that marathon runners use because he was convinced they were trying to feed him wood glue.)
4. Everything a diabetic eats that has sugars in it (which is pretty much everything that isn’t meat) has a value to it and the amount of insulin they inject is based on what they have consumed.
5. It’s not that diabetics *can’t* have cake so much as they shouldn’t have cake every day. Or a whole cake. Which is pretty much true for everyone whether they’re diabetic or not.
6. My blood sugar is well within normal ranges — also, the testing needle doesn’t really hurt, but I definitely wouldn’t want to do that five times a day. It’s not the most awesome feeling ever.
7. The best places on the body to inject insulin are around the belly button, the backs of the arms and the backs of the legs.
8. There is an inhaler that can be used in the stead of the traditional injection method.
9. As diabetics get older, the disease becomes more dangerous in that it has to be very closely regulated and failure to do so can result in all sorts of complications and/or death…as the memory starts to slip, the disease becomes more and more dangerous.
10. While most people are diagnosed at a young age (around 10-ish), it’s not unheard of for people with a history of diabetes in the family to be diagnosed in their 20s (Chris, for example, was 24 when he was diagnosed).
11. Insulin is on the IOC’s, among others, banned substances list because it is essentially a short term energy boost for those of us with a functioning pancreas. Diabetics are obviously exempted from this substance ban.
*No citations here, just what I picked up from someone who knows firsthand.