A couple of weeks ago, we hosted our very first DiabetesMine Book Review Giveaway — a smashing success! — and our winner took us fully by surprise. In fact, she reminded us that outside the cocoon of the DOC, where online cheerleading and pats on the back are common fare, there are plenty of people fighting for their lives with this disease.
Our winner was Audrie Eckerle, a 20-year-old type 1 from Idaho, who has been struggling to manage her diabetes for many years. We learned that Audrie was in the intensive care unit when she won her free copy of the book A Life of Control. "She was in the hospital for the fifth time in 8 months," her mom wrote to us. "I really wish she would do better managing diabetes. Hopefully your book will help her. I don't want to lose her, or have her face bad things as a result. This couldn't have happened at a better time for her."
After hearing that, we wanted to learn more about Audrie and what she is struggling with, in the hopes that the amazing DOC could rally together to support this girl.
Audrie writes, "I have had diabetes for 15 years. I really really hate it. I feel though as it has robbed me of my childhood and teen years. While other kids could do what they wanted, I couldn't. While I was on shots, I would have nasty lows at night and my parents would wake to me having a seizure. My first seizure was at age 5 — a month after I was diagnosed. During that first seizure I lost my vision for several hours. It eventually came back, but it was very scary for me."
After moving to a new town in Idaho, Audrie's endocrinologist put her on the Disetronic insulin pump (later acquired by Roche and now their ACCU-Chek Spirit pump). But even on the insulin pump, Audrie suffered with seizures and a few bouts of DKA due to pump malfunctions — yipes! Not only did Audrie have trouble managing her diabetes physically, but the emotional weight of diabetes took its toll:
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"During school I was made to feel like I was different instead of like any other kid," Audrie writes to us. "I wasn't allowed to test in class and had to go to the nurse."
Then high school hit, and as those who've been through it know, the high school years with diabetes are rough.
"I had the responsibility of testing and bolusing and changing my sites," Audrie wrote. "It's not that I was not capable, it's just that I see all these high numbers all the time and I would just like to forget about it. It is depressing to try and be good, try and eat the right food, take my boluses for what I eat and yet when I test I am high. None of my friends at school had diabetes. I wouldn't test and take my insulin because I was made fun of and teased. It hurts so bad being different."
Now as an adult, Audrie has had difficulty getting medical insurance through an employer, and difficulty staying employed because of her diabetes (talk about a catch-22!). She's had several episodes of DKA which landed her in the hospital, including the most recent episode on April 10. Audrie writes that she knows that she needs to do to take better care of herself, but that it's just so difficult:
"I don't want to die. I don't want to have diabetes. I want to live life, have fun and in the future have a family of my own with a supportive husband like my dad is to my mom, and how my mom is with my dad."
Audrie asks: "Who can point me in the right direction and help me get what I need so I can take better care of myself?"
We were so moved by Audrie's story that we also sent her a copy of the book 50 Secrets of the Longest Living People with Diabetes, co-authored by Dr. Steve Edelman and Dr. Sheri Colberg-Ochs, an informative and encouraging book about some real role models in the diabetes community. It's a small gesture.
But we're also reaching out to you, Dear Readers: Does anyone have any words of wisdom to share with Audrie as she struggles to get on track?
[Note: Our winners are chosen using Random.org.]