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patient story

diabetes won't slow me down

Hannah Koyl

Tasty food… long naps… feathery toys… any cat owner out there knows that these may be some of their feline friend’s favorite things. But for 14-year-old Hannah, there’s one other thing her cat, Pipa, loves… the smell of her insulin.

Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a few days before her 5th birthday, Hannah’s body relies on an insulin pump to play the role of her pancreas and keep her healthy.

“When Pipa was a kitten she climbed into my bed and bit my insulin tube in half,” remembers Hannah. “My bed was soaked and reeked of insulin and we finally realized it was because Pipa had chewed the tube and the insulin was pouring into my bed instead of into my body.”

Hannah’s mom, Tara, began to receive alerts from a device that talks to her pump alerting her that Hannah’s blood sugar numbers were extremely high.

It was unknown how long Hannah had gone without receiving her life-saving insulin.

“When I finally figured out what was going on I just kept pushing units of insulin with a syringe. You could see her color fading and nothing I was doing was working fast enough,” shares Tara. “I called 911 because I couldn’t get her off the couch. She was taken to our local hospital in Springfield and then sent by CareFlight to Dayton Children’s.”

Even though Hannah had diabetes for nearly six years, this was the first time her body went into diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a life-threatening condition that happens when the body uses fat for energy instead of glucose. With proper management of the disease, most diabetics can avoid going into DKA. But because Pipa had cut off Hannah’s insulin supply, her body was shutting down.

After this incident, Hannah’s endocrinologist, Yelena Nicholson,MD,  recommended Hannah switch to the wireless OmniPod®pump.

“The OmniPod® allows Hannah to have more freedom because it’s the only diabetes pump that is tubeless with no wire attached to an insulin pump,” says Dr. Nicholson. “The OmniPod® can also be placed on various locations on the body such as the back of her arm or her thigh. Hannah simply has to enter her information on a remote control device that connects to the pod via Bluetooth and press a button to allow insulin to be delivered from the pod worn on her body.”

As an extremely active teenager, Hannah really values the freedom that the OmniPod® gives her. Whether she’s cheering, playing softball or volleyball, or ice skating, she doesn’t have to worry about securing her pump or having it drop in the middle of a game or activity. She also doesn’t have to disconnect it to take a shower or swimming.

Even before having the OmniPod®, Hannah has always been very independent when it comes to managing her diabetes.

“Before we even left the hospital after she was diagnosed, Hannah was pricking her finger and checking her own glucose numbers,” says Tara. “She has always hit the road running with anything she’s ever done.”

“Hannah has good diabetes control,” says Dr. Nicholson. “She is self-sufficient and has a strong knowledge of diabetes and self-care. She has demonstrated the ability to take care of herself and by attending a local diabetes camp each summer she is also helping other kids learn how to do the same.”

As much as she can, Hannah doesn’t let her diabetes slow her down. She doesn’t want life, or the fun she’s having, to stop just because her blood sugar feels low.

“Her dad and I have gone as far as throwing fruit snacks through her catcher’s mask in a softball game to keep her going,” jokes Tara. “Many days I ask her if she wants to slow down and she usually says no. Some days she says “I just can’t do it anymore,” and that is where I come in to take over for her. But then she’s right back at it the next day. I’m so excited to see her grow and embrace this special life that she has been given.”

For Hannah, she says it’s because of the support of her whole family, including her younger brother and grandparents, that she is able to do most things she wants despite her illness.

And as far as her cat Pipa goes… she’s still a beloved member of the family and she still loves the smell of insulin. But thanks to Hannah’s OmniPod®, cuddling next to it is the closest she’s going to get to getting another taste anytime soon!