So. Much. Info.
Talk about a book you wish you had been handed upon diagnosis! The new paperback "Highs & Lows of Type 1 Diabetes: the Ultimate Guide for Teens and Young Adults" by Patrick McAllister definitely delivers on its promise of providing a comprehensive handbook "for surviving, thriving and flourishing with T1D during one of the most challenging, yet exciting, phases of your life."
And although the book is geared towards teens and early twenty-somethings, I'd venture to say that any adult or parent of a T1D could get a ton of valuable information and understanding from reading through this 150-page guide.
Two things make this book stand out from other diabetes guides, IMHO: First, it's written in such a straightforward, "friend-to-friend voice" from the perspective of a young PWD who makes no bones about the fact that he's writing only from his own experiences and that of friends with T1D. "Do not take the contents of this book as the absolute truth," he writes. "The one person who knows your T1D best is YOU -- not your doctors, parents, or friends."
Secondly, this is one of the few books I'm aware of that covers ALL the realities of life with diabetes -- including (literally) sex, drugs and rock n' roll. How we need these frank conversations!
Patrick McAllister and Yale Diabetes
So who is author Patrick McAllister, and how did this book come to be medically reviewed and endorsed by the Yale Medicine pediatric diabetes team?
Turns out Patrick is a 23-year-old college student who was diagnosed at the Yale Pediatric Endocrinology Clinic when he was 12 years old. In the intro, he describes meeting Dr. William Tamborlane, whose permanent grin made Patrick believe "he was the happiest doctor in the hospital."
Patrick is now a senior studying biology at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, VT, where he's served as a mentor to adolescent patients and founded a Chapter of the College Diabetes Network. He also works as a teaching assistant and tutor for the Saint Michael’s College Biology department, and is heavily involved in sports, including soccer, fencing, and lacrosse. Somewhere in the midst of all this, he got inspired to compile this practical book that would essentially tell other young people "everything they need to know" about life with T1D -- from insulin and device choices to carb counting, handling travel, sick days, dealings with the pharmacy, campus life and much more.
The book has a foreword by Dr. Stuart Weinzimer of Yale, who wisely states that despite all the advances in technology, "the most important tools to manage living with diabetes will always be learning as much as you can, finding support in friends and family, and meeting the challenges head-on with resilience, humor and grace." Amen.
Anatomy of Teen T1D Guide
The book is divided into 13 chapters, that start with diagnosis and the first few weeks and make their way through high and low blood sugars; insulin via injections and pumps; sick days; doctor's visits; telling people you know; surviving school with T1D; T1D and sports; traveling with T1D; sex, drugs and rock n' roll; off to college with T1D; and getting involved in your T1D community.
I loved the clear, bold color images of many products being discussed, and even the color images of people on the title page of each new chapter, which are mostly pulled from StockPhoto, but somehow still bring an authentic feel.
Published by Good Books based in New York, the book was printed in China, and I'm not sure if that had anything to do with the paper choice -- but the pages are of a heavy card stock that gives the guide a sort of compact school-book feel.
Bright green "pop-out boxes" throughout the book highlight special tips from Patrick, like this one about the tendency to experience low blood sugar while hot-tubbing:
There's also a nice Glossary of T1D terms in the back, which would certainly be useful to anyone dealing with a new diagnosis of type 1 diabetes!
Gems in Every Chapter
In fact, even for someone like myself who lives and breathes diabetes information, I found some gems of wisdom in every chapter.
For example, in the "First Few Weeks" chapter, Patrick points out that we should never mistake offers of help for a pity party; rather "whenever someone offers help... stop being stubborn and embrace the help in front of you."
In the chapter on carbohydrates, very practically titled "How to Eat & Drink with T1D," he actually explains in some detail how our bodies respond to different carbs in different ways. And he has a wonderful list of "food that does not have many carbs" that's not intimidating at all, as it includes normal food items. I'm sure this will be super-helpful to so many young people new to this disease. (Again, if someone had handed me this list right after diagnosis, I probably would've wept with relief.) With simple explanations of the best liquids and snacks to concentrate on, he really does offer one of the best explanations of "what you can eat with diabetes" that I've seen to date.
In the chapter titled "Those Darn High & Low Blood Sugars," he offers a concise 5-step explanation of how to use a glucagon kit. Thank God for that! And he emphasizes how important it is to guzzle a lot of water when trying to bring down high BG levels -- something I personally always forget.
There's a six-page chapter devoted to who to tell about your T1D, and how to tell them. I love the emphasis on making sure your roommates are on board, "because if you pass out, what good will it do if they just know you love Game of Thrones?"
In the detailed chapter on sports, Patrick even breaks down strategies for staying safe while participating in specific sports: baseball/softball, basketball, cross country, cheerleading/dancing, fencing, field hockey, lacrosse, golf, tennis, soccer, skiing/snowboarding, and volleyball. Among his hypo prevention strategies is mixing Gatorade with water 50-50 for a perfect low prevention + hydration drink. Brilliant!
In the "Sex, Drugs and Rock n' Roll" chapter, he likewise gives great details on managing the BG effects for different types of drinks. And he reminds us that busting a move on the dance floor is an easy path to a low BG, even if you're not doing it as a competitive sport (been there!)
Just a Few Gaps
If I had any gripes at all about this book, it would be just a couple of minor things.
Sometimes Patrick's sources seem a little "off" -- like when he's talking about Continuous Glucose Monitors in Chapter 3, he writes that he's "heard of two brands of CGMs in my discussions with friends who have T1D." He then goes on to describe the Dexcom and Medtronic products. But why not do some real research on these products, involving a doctor or industry expert, rather than simply relying on what he hears from a few friends?
On the flipside, in Chapter 6, when he talks about the importance of wearing a medical ID, he suggests we all ask our doctors about getting a medical bracelet, necklace or tattoo. If there's any topic you would rather ask fellow patients about than a doctor, it would be this! It's highly unlikely that even the best endo would know to guide you to the coolest med ID jewelry designs, or to Diabetic Ink, for example.
Also, as promising as it sounds, I found Patick 's coverage of sex with T1D rather disappointing. It's really just a short section that reads as a pep talk along the lines of "watch out for lows" and "you can do this." There is no mention of specific BG strategies like pumpers perhaps wanting to disconnect or set a temp basal, or nary a tip on how and where to keep sugar supplies at the ready when things heat up.
And in the final chapter on "Getting Involved," I was quite surprised to see no mention whatsoever of the DOC (Diabetes Online Community) or how powerful it can be to get active and connect via various social media channels. Rather, almost the whole chapter is about getting involved in the College Diabetes Network on your respective campus. The only explanation I can imagine here is that for Gen Z kids and Millennials like Patrick, doing stuff online is so ridiculously obvious that there's no need to point it out specifically...? Well Geez, I hope at least some of them have heard of sites like DiabetesMine.
Meanwhile, the book gets a solid "A" on everything else. Thank you Patrick, for publishing this mega-relatable guide that's so very needed!
"Highs & Lows of T1D" is available on Amazon in paperback for $14.99, or $10.50 for the Kindle version.
But before you click to buy, scroll down for a chance to win one!
A DMBooks Giveaway
Interested in winning a free copy of Highs & Lows of Type 1 Diabetes?
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Good luck to all!
This contest is now closed. Congrats to Natalie Roknich from Indiana, chosen by Random.org as winner of this giveaway.