As we work our way through the list of Patient Voices contest winners who'll be joining us for the DiabetesMine Innovation Summit in a few months, today we're happy to introduce longtime type 1 Kim Hislop in New Hampshire.

Residing in Newington with her husband Dan of seven years and four "fur babies" (three dogs and a cat), Kim is quickly approaching her 20th year of living with type 1. She's been through a lot in those years, especially recently -- experiencing several diabetes complications including kidney failure that led to her getting a transplant in late 2013 and now has her thinking about a pancreas transplant. Through it all, Kim's kept an inspirational oKim Hisloputlook and is determined to continue traveling the world as she's always done.

Currently pursuing a degree in psychology from Union Institute & University, the 32-year-old is hoping to apply her passion and experience to new approaches to diabetes tech for the future.

Here's what Kim has to say...

 

DM) As always: first up, please share your diagnosis story...

KH) I was diagnosed in 1997, at the age of 15, during a sports physical. The nurse came into the exam room and asked if I could give another urine sample because the first showed high sugar. After testing the second sample they asked that I do a fasting blood test the next morning. At the time, my family and I thought that maybe I would just need to change my diet and activity level.

A few hours after I went for the blood test, my doctor's office called and said they had set up an appointment with and endocrinologist for me the following day. Again, no one seemed too concerned. As soon as I entered the exam room at the endo's office a nurse gave me a shot. My parents asked what was happening and the doctor simply said, "You don't know? Kim has type 1 diabetes." I am the only one in my family with type 1, though both my paternal and maternal grandfathers were type 2.

Did you embrace your diabetes from the start, or go through that denial and rebellion phase like many teens do?

Since my diagnosis, I have participated in many fundraisers for diabetes research and programs. But I struggled, a lot, during the first 12 years living with it. Due to what we call "deniabetes," I suffer from most complications. Once I took back control of my life, I teamed up with a CDE and was asked to speak to pharmacy students at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy on the patient's perspective on the complications of diabetes. The success of that lecture has led to other opportunities to speak at several CE courses for NP's, Nurses, and Pharmacists. I was also the Northern New England JDRF branch's Fund A Cure speaker in 2011. I also had a kidney transplant in 2013 and now advocate for people signing up to be organ donors.

Wow, can you share any more about that kidney transplant experience?

I ended up with renal failure and needed a new kidney to survive, or else I would've been on kidney dialysis. My transplant was on December 17, and it was my mother-in-law who donated her kidney to me (which made the TV news!). From the very beginning, she was the only person who went through the process to be evaluated for a match, and she was a match and was healthy and able to donate. That typically doesn't happen; you see all these stats about all the people who are waiting for transplants and how so few transplant surgeries actually happen... so it's crazy that this person, my mother-in-law, said they'd do it and it worked out. I don't think I'll truly ever really understand how lucky I am!

How have you been since that transplant late last year?

The actual surgery itself went well for me, and the kidney function has been amazing. I struggled after the surgery, mostly because of the medications, and was in the hospital five or six times after that for a total of 30 days after surgery just for all the medication issues. The meds are very harsh on your system. But in the past couple of months, I've started to feel more normal and the function has been great, better than I've had in a long time.

Now I'm considering a pancreas transplant and going in for consults about that. You get moved up higher on the list if you've had a kidney transplant, because you're already on the kidney medications. And there's the fact that if I get a pancreas transplant, it could help my kidney not be as stressed from diabetes. A kidney transplant isn't a cure for the rest of my life, and because I'm so young I will need another kidney at some point in my life. So this may help me get more out of the first kidney. I've had to do a lot of research and soul-searching about that, but right now I'm leaning in the direction of having it.

Kim Hislop and Leopard

Despite all of the complications and struggles, you've traveled quite a bit across the globe... where have your adventures taken you?

Boy, I've been traveling since high school and all through my life, and can't even count how many places I've gone -- Russia, Greece, Austria, Switzerland, Africa, the Caribbean... so many places. I'm thinking about 20 different countries. I love experiencing other cultures and seeing whatever I can. I'm an adrenaline junkie, really I am. Now that I've had the transplant, I haven't been able to travel overseas and I feel like I'm going through withdrawal.

That picture of me with a cheetah (at right) was in Nanidia, on the West Coast of Africa in January 2013. What prompted that was the news the summer before that I was going into kidney failure, and the best course of action was going to be a transplant. My aunt had been sailing around the world for years and was in Africa at that point, and so I looked at my husband and said, "That's where I want to go." So for two weeks, I was there. I got to pet a cheetah, after we went to a place that is like a cheetah farm and a man had three he'd domesticated and were living in his backyard. We paid $20 to camp there and got to pet the adult cheetah, and watch him eat.

Kim Hislop Kissing a Dolphin

I also absolutely love dolphins and have been swimming with them in a couple of locations, and got to kiss one in the Dominican Republic.

My diabetes has never stopped me from traveling. Yes, I do take extra precautions. But with planning, I feel anything is possible.

What do you hope to do once you complete your college degree?

With a degree in psychology, I would like to help others struggling with chronic illness to accept their diagnosis. It is my firm belief that in order to take the best care of a health problem, one must start with taking care their mental health. They go hand in hand.

Why did you enter our Patient Voices Contest?

I entered this contest because I feel that people who are making decisions about my personal healthcare need to know something about me. It's so important that they are asking more broadly what the needs of the diabetic community are. It is awesome that more technology is available to help us, but perhaps we have specific needs that haven't even been thought of yet. For example, a few years ago I was suffering from severe retinopathy and one morning I woke up without vision in either of my eyes. I was at a loss for how to manage my diabetes, especially on a pump, without sight. Upon further investigation, I was disheartened to learn that there is no insulin pump on the market with voice-over {Editor's Note: a past winner focused on this 'blind spot'}. Surely I couldn't be the only one with this need?! Especially if a major complication of diabetes is vision loss and blindness. It's sad now because when it comes to choosing a pump or meter, my first question is not "How well does it work?" but "Can I see the screen well?"

What are your hopes for the Summit?Patient-Voices-Logo-2014

I hope that I can bring a unique perspective. Unfortunately I am the poster child for complications. But I think that because I have gone through them, I have compassion and empathy for the struggles of others.

With everything you've gone through, it sounds like you've certainly found your advocacy voice...

I tend to be very judging of myself and when it comes to the complications I've gone through. But I want to be more inspirational, and I really believe you have to have a positive outlook. Are you going to crawl into a hole and not live your life? No, absolutely not. I'm really proud that I've managed to turn my life around and managed to take care of myself with all these complications. It's super important to talk about complications, to know that you don't have to blame yourself and feel guilty because of complications.

 

Thanks for speaking out on the issues of complications and guilt, Kim. We can't wait to see you at the Summit!

 
Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.

Disclaimer

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.