Yesica Mercado Munoz was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes mellitus in November 2011, when she was 10 years old. Nobody in Yesica’s family has diabetes, so her diagnosis was a total shock.
“Right away when I got diagnosed it was such a big life shift,” Yesica explains. “I knew I wasn’t like the other kids. I knew I had more responsibilities at a young age. It just kind of hit me every once in a while that I’m going to have this disease for the rest of my life, and I’m going to have to do these extra daily tasks that a lot of people don’t have to do — and it’s just obnoxious sometimes!”
How the diagnosis changed her life
Type 1 diabetes is a disease that impacts all parts of life. Yesica had to start testing her blood sugar levels every three hours — day and night — and then eat, inject insulin, or both to help stabilize her levels. That in itself was quite an adjustment, but on top of the logistics of managing her condition, she faced social challenges, too.
Yesica felt like her classmates looked at her funny when she had to go see the school nurse. And there would either be time limits on how long she could stay at her friends’ houses, or her mom would need to speak to her friend’s parents to explain what to do in case something went wrong with Yesica’s blood sugar levels.
When Yesica was 13, she and her family were staying in a cabin at Christmas time. With all the festivities, Yesica took an extra dose of insulin without realizing it. Yesica recounts the story,
“In the middle of the night, I woke up with a blood sugar of 27. I could barely move. I could barely talk. After a little bit, I got up the courage to scream, but I couldn’t get anything out. It was literally like I was paralyzed, and I barely had a voice. So, I just let out the loudest scream I could. Luckily, we were all sleeping in one room, so my mom immediately woke up and checked my blood sugar. That was probably my scariest moment I’ve had.”
Inspired to have a future in medicine
When Yesica was first diagnosed, she stayed at Children’s Minnesota for a few days.
“I loved the atmosphere, and the health care providers really inspired me to become one of them someday. I loved how much they cared about me, even though they barely knew me, and how they all wanted me to be healthy and succeed in life,” she recalls.
Throughout her time with Children’s Minnesota, Yesica has made great connections—even meeting country star Garth Brooks! She feels like Children’s Minnesota is a second home. Wanting to give back, she joined the Youth Advisory Council, served as a weekly volunteer and helped at fundraising events.
At 20 years old, Yesica is now a student at the University of Minnesota with a goal to become a physician assistant at a pediatric endocrinology center.
What Yesica has learned over the past 10 years of managing her condition
A decade of managing type 1 diabetes — through childhood, adolescence and now adulthood — has given Yesica an opportunity to learn a lot about her condition and herself.
“I have just accepted it as being a part of me. I wouldn’t say it’s like a personality trait at this point, but it’s such a big part of me and it’s had such an impact and influence on me. It’s also opened so many doors,” she shares.
She advises kids or teens with a new diabetes diagnosis that they need to be their own advocate: “Ask for help managing your condition and your physical and mental health. It’s OK to get help.”