By AMY HEGGEN
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Though they must carefully monitor blood-sugar levels on a frequent basis, people with diabetes lead active and healthy lives.
This is just one of the many facts that SUNY Plattsburgh student nurses learned at the Diabetes Awareness Event during a recent panel discussion they held with four locals who live with the condition.
Jill Folsom of Peru, a registered nurse and a volunteer with JDRF Advocacy, a global organization that funds research on type 1 diabetes, moderated the event. Her mother, Pat Folsom, has type 2 diabetes, and her 14-year-old son, Connor Sargeant, has type 1 diabetes. Both family members attended the discussion.
“About 8 percent of New York state residents have type 1 or type 2 diabetes,” Jill said.
Diabetes is a leading global cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and amputation, according to the JDRF website.
ACTIVE IN SPORTS
Each of the panelists has a preferred way to handle low blood sugar.
Reina Ayotte, 7, of Rouses Point likes to eat gummy bears, and Sargeant prefers Skittles.
Ayotte carries a small kit of emergency supplies to school with a test kit; a glucagon shot, which raises blood sugar in an emergency situation; juice; and other snacks.
Jodie Lanning, 35, of West Chazy said glucose tablets are like sugar chalk, so she tries to stay away from them.
The panelists stay active — Ayotte ice skates and swims, while Sargeant plays basketball.
“Before games and practices, I have to make sure I’m not low,” he said.
Jill said there are various famous athletes with diabetes.
All of the panelists have to be conscious of their carbohydrate intake, because too much or too little means blood sugar that is too low or too high. Sometimes, Lanning wakes up with low blood sugar in the middle of the night.
“It’s like an anxiety attack accompanied by the worst hunger you’ve ever had,” Lanning said.
Sargeant agreed with that.
It can be scary, Lanning said, when she doesn’t even notice the symptoms of low blood sugar.
Pat said it’s important for nurses to explain and give tips to the patients on caring for themselves. She didn’t have any training when she was diagnosed.
“Go in and tell them even little things like, ‘Check your blood sugar before you eat,’ because maybe (the patient) didn’t know that,” Lanning said.
She also explained that type 1 and type 2 diabetes are different diseases.
“It’s just as serious to take care of yourself with type 2 as with type 1,” Pat said. “It can affect your eyes and your circulation (otherwise).”
It’s important to find something positive about having diabetes. For several years, Lanning attended the Clara Barton Camp, a summer program for girls with diabetes.
“Those girls, they’re my support, they’re my rock,” she said. “I’m not alone.”
She said it’s important to make the distinction between calling someone a diabetic or saying they’re a person with diabetes.
“They have a whole other life” aside from having the disease, Lanning said.
Sargeant has also learned a lot in the process of dealing with diabetes. He has traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend congressional hearings on finding a cure.