By Kristi Calvery

I never thought I would be grateful that I was diagnosed with diabetes as a child. As a teacher, I now find there is value in life experiences and adversity. It allows a person to come alongside a child or teenager when they need someone who can just listen and really understand. Many times, I have sat in my classroom with a student who has just encountered a life shattering event. After I cry with them, I can tell them my story:

I remember the day my life was irreversibly changed. It was a cold December day when my mom picked me up early from Mrs. Arnott’s fourth grade class. I don’t remember being sick, as much as just being exhausted and thirsty all of the time. I had been to the doctor a few times, but it was hard to say exactly what was wrong other than exhaustion. On that December morning, my mother made me change clothes before school, and she panicked and started making phone calls when she could see my ribs.

I was promised a milkshake if I didn’t cry when I entered Pondera Medical Center to get a blood test, but instead, I received the life altering news that I would have to do child- dreaded things like give myself shots, check my blood sugar level, and stop eating Lucky Charms. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy, so it is no wonder I was so tired.

My mom and dad had to drive me immediately to the Intensive Care Unit in Great Falls because my blood sugar was over 700. I spent several days getting a blood test every hour and hooked up to monitors and subsequently not sleeping.

I spent a week in the children’s wing of the hospital learning about my new life. I gave pretend shots of insulin to oranges and teddy bears until I could manage to give them to myself.

That was 24 years ago. There is no cure for diabetes, but over the last 20 years, the advancements in technology, medicine, and science have made life easier. I was able to get an insulin pump that gives insulin more consistently like a regular body, and now I only have to give myself a shot every three days. It is easier to manage, and I get excited to hear about some of the new prospects on the horizon.
I have told the kids I have taught that diabetes changed my life, but it didn’t ruin it.