Living with diabetes – An interview with Michael Harris
November 30th, 2021
How was your Thanksgiving? Seeing family after such a long time was as great as the food was on Thursday! My Chiefs were on a bye this week, but football did not disappoint with exciting games Thursday to Sunday. I am so excited about this week’s blog post, and I hope you are ready for an inspiring story. I want to thank Michael for taking the time to share his story and knowledge with me.
Michael has Type 1 diabetes, meaning his body doesn’t produce insulin. He was diagnosed at only 11 months old. He was very sick. When his parents took him to his pediatrician, the doctor didn’t know what was wrong with him and sent them home. A couple days later Michael’s Grandma said to take him to hospital. This was in 1971, after running multiple tests and not finding any answers the doctors began pumping him full of glucose, which made his condition worse. The outlook was grave, and the doctors believed he was dying. A nurse decided to check his blood sugar levels, which were 900. They immediately injected insulin because he was in a comma from sugar overload. He was a sickly child and tells me his earliest memory is being in a Gainesville, Florida children’s hospital. At the time Michael was the youngest person diagnosed with diabetes in the state of Florida. Later, around age 12, Michael was able to meet the nurse who tested his blood sugar levels and ultimately saved his life. He asked her what made her test his blood sugar and she said it was only test they hadn’t run.
Michael is always aware that he has diabetes, and he must constantly monitor his blood sugar levels. It is a journey constantly walking a fine line between high and low blood sugar. He now has an insulin pod and takes additional insulin based on his sugar/carb intake. Growing up, Michael’s parents established strict routine and worked with him as kid. They created a schedule, of checking blood sugar and taking insulin, and made him stick to it. He gives his parents all the credit for this level of discipline and teaching him to take care of himself and how it is even more important for him than it was for other kids. This has served him well in life, as it is all he knows. Michael has a regular exercise routine to help keep baseline and this is also something he has done since he was a kid. The exercise also helps with circulation which can become a problem for those who have diabetes.
All food affects Michael, so his diet not as restrictive as it is for someone with type 2 diabetes. Stress and activity level affects sugar/insulin level, which is again why Michael is constantly checking his blood sugar levels. For Michael, when his blood sugar is high, he is very aware of everything but feels like he has additional weight on his shoulders. He states that he feels “like he has been hit by Mac Truck” when his sugar level is too high. Permanent damage to his organs is one of the biggest risks associated with uncorrected high blood sugar. On the opposite end of the spectrum, low sugar causes him to black out.
Michael has learned to listen to his body. He states that he always feels slightly off because he cannot keep his blood sugar levels perfect, but does strive to keep it in a comfortable range. Since he was diagnosed, Michael has never been hospitalized overnight due to his diabetes. He has an optimistic outlook on life and is always looking for the silver lining of a situation, recognizing that they are far worse diseases to have than diabetes. He is thankful for and looking forward to his 52nd birthday, because as a child he was convinced he would not see 50. In closing Michael want to thank his parents and the nurse who tested his blood sugar. His message is this: “Diabetes is not something to fear; it is not easy, but it is manageable.”
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Have a blessed week ~ Lacey