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Coping with diabetes as a child

Publish date: 06/05/2014

Tags: Cold , Diabetes , Headache

'Having diabetes doesn’t stop me doing anything'

Sports-mad sixth former Sam Knight is 16 and lives in Kent with his parents Craig, 46 and Sally, 44, and sisters Bethany, 18 and Annabel, 13.

‘I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 10. I remember running off the sports field and gulping down one and half litres of water in one go because I was so thirsty.

I also felt really tired all the time, suffered from headaches and felt quite irritable, which I now know are symptoms of high blood sugar.

It was my grandmother who took me to the GP as my parents were away at the time and he tested my urine and said I should go the hospital straight away as I may have diabetes.

I can’t remember much about what happened next but further tests confirmed my blood sugar had gone through the roof. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and then the doctor explained that I would have to inject myself with insulin before every meal for the rest of my life.

Type 1 diabetes develops when the insulin producing cells in the body have been destroyed and the body is unable to produce any insulin. It’s an autoimmune condition, which means your body’s own immune system mistakes the cells in your pancreas as harmful and attacks them, either destroying them or damaging them so they can’t produce insulin. It can develop at any age but is most often diagnosed in children, teens or young adults.

A type 1 diagnosis is quite a lot to take on board when you’re only 10 but even then I didn’t let it faze me at all. We were all pretty shocked because  no-one else in our family has the condition.

I know some kids (and adults) are really scared of injections but I made it my mission to administer the injections myself right from the start. In fact I was injecting myself before I left hospital – I just knew the sooner I got used to it the better.

I inject myself with insulin before breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and also take a background dose. I inject myself in the tops of my arms, thighs and bellybutton area. It’s not pleasant but it’s not painful or a big deal. I just get on with it.

I think I was diagnosed at the perfect age because I was so young – injecting insulin is just part of my daily routine and I don’t think twice about it. I’m very organised about taking my insulin with me – wherever I go the kit comes with me – it’s second nature to me.

People think that because I’m diabetic I’m not allowed to eat chocolate or other sugary foods such as sweets and doughnuts, but I eat exactly what I want. I’m the most non-fussy eater. I’ve got really good at being able to judge the carb content of foods and balance it with enough insulin to counter it. I reckon I can judge the sugar content of foods on sight. I eat healthy foods too – including pasta which I need if I’m playing sport.

I’m just a normal teenage boy – not particularly skinny – normal build and I love to play sport. I go to the gym, box and play lots of team sports. I don’t let diabetes stop me doing anything. If I feel my blood sugar dipping when I’m playing sport I’ll grab a banana, an orange juice and a couple of biscuits. I find the Olympian Sir Steve Redgrave very inspiring – he’s a role model for me because he’s clearly never let having diabetes get in his way in achieving great things.

I suppose I could get down about it and think why me – but what’s the point? There are lots of young people and kids out there who have been told far worse news about their health than me.

Apart from injecting insulin, I test my blood sugar with a finger prick test to monitor my blood sugar levels four to six times day and have six monthly check-ups at the hospital.

The only other way diabetes impacts on my life is that I have a slightly impaired immune system – I’m more prone to flu and coughs and colds, and it takes me longer to fight them off.

When I leave school I want to study theatre studies at university and become a professional actor. My sister is already at drama school and loves it and I’ve joined a local drama group. Having diabetes isn’t going to hold me back in anything I do – I’m sure of that.’

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