The summer of 2010 is a distant memory for most of us after the long winter months, but for Ken Luke of Beavercreek, it seems like another lifetime. It was in Month of 2010 that the 17-year-old finally learned the cause of some disturbing symptoms he had been experiencing.
Ken made an appointment with his family doctor because he had been drinking six gallons of water a day and was up six to eight times during the night to use the bathroom. Then he started losing weight. “I got to the doctor and he didn’t seem too concerned. He took some blood and said they would call me in a day or two with the results.
“It was the middle of summer. I was having a good day just rockin’ out. I literally just walked in the door after getting home from the doctor and the phone was ringing. It was the doctor’s office,” Ken recalls. “The doctor told me ‘You need to go to Dayton Children’s emergency department right away. There’s a team waiting for you.’” His doctor suspected diabetes.
Ken discovered that his blood sugar was 880—the normal range is 80-150 for a person his age. The diabetes team delivered insulin to him through an IV and he was admitted to the hospital for three days to get his blood sugar levels normalized and to learn about type 1 diabetes. This is when he met Yelena Nicholson, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist at Dayton Children’s, and a diabetes expert.
Ken quickly learned how to use a syringe to inject insulin, to check his blood sugar several times a day and to monitor his intake of carbohydrates. “The team did a great job educating me about diabetes—everyone was helpful and nice. For being in the hospital, it was a rather enjoyable stay,” he says.
After leaving the hospital, Ken began seeing Dr. Nicholson in the diabetes outpatient clinic at Dayton Children’s. Immediately after diagnosis, Ken was still using needles to inject his insulin, but within four months, Dr. Nicholson talked to him about switching to an insulin pump.
Getting an insulin pump
“Ken was a good candidate for the insulin pump because he was motivated to improve control of his diabetes, which is the main benefit of the pump,” she says. He was also willing to wear a pump device (attached under the skin), check his blood sugar four times a day, learn how to count carbohydrates and insulin doses, and receive education and training on using the insulin pump. With Dr. Nicholson’s recommendation, Ken was approved for a Medtronic insulin pump.
Ken explains that a device inserted under the skin on his leg communicates wirelessly with the insulin pump, which is about the size of a typical smart phone. “It’s been interesting learning about the disease and how to use technology to better control my diabetes. Checking my blood, adjusting my insulin—it’s all second nature to me now.”
Besides helping patients achieve better control of their diabetes, the insulin pump also allows Dr. Nicholson to remotely monitor data uploaded to the Medtronic website from Ken’s pump. When Ken comes in for an office visit, the first thing the nurse does is download data from his pump, which is presented as a graph of his blood sugar levels and other key indicators over the time period since his last visit.
“I really respect Dr. Nicholson,” Ken says. “She has life experience—a family member has type 1 diabetes—but she also has book experience. It’s been really helpful to be able to communicate with her by e-mail. I feel like she really stays on top of everything.”
“Ken is a patient I would call his own advocate,” says Dr. Nicholson. “He always takes the initiative to ask me about new technologies and learn new things by researching on the internet. I think one of the great things about Ken is that he was not scared to learn how to care for his diabetes in a different way. He wanted to try the pump and judge for himself if it was right for him.”
Ken has taken his diabetes diagnosis in stride. His one regret is that he is no longer eligible for military service. “I was a little disappointed, but they say God works in mysterious ways, so maybe it’s for the best.” He now attends Sinclair Community College and hopes to go into engineering.
“My advice to anyone diagnosed with diabetes is to listen to the people taking care of you, but to learn as much as you can on your own. It’s easy to manage of you pay attention and don’t let it get away from you,” Ken says.
To learn more about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, go to the diabetes information center. Talk to your child’s doctor if you suspect your child might have diabetes. He or she can make a referral to Dayton Children’s pediatric endocrinologists.
How an insulin pump works
The pump is programmed to give insulin automatically throughout the day independent of blood sugar readings. Patients wearing the pump do not have to push any buttons to receive that portion of insulin. However, patients may also need extra insulin to adjust their blood sugar level to normal when they eat and a dose of insulin is given by the patient pushing the button on the pump. Kids using the pump have to measure their blood sugar and enter that information into the pump. They must also determine how many grams of carbohydrates they are eating and put that data in. The pump then calculates the insulin amount depending on the requirement determined by the doctor. By pushing a button, the patient “tells” the pump to give the calculated amount of insulin.
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