When Yesica started having to go to the bathroom frequently and was always drinking water, her family didn’t think anything was wrong.
Then, Yesica’s jeans stopped fitting.
“When I tried on some jeans, they fell right off,” said Yesica. “That’s something that’s not normal for my age. I should be gaining [weight], not losing.”
That’s when her mom took her to a doctor, and Yesica was ultimately referred to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Her symptoms were early signs of Type 1 Diabetes — a chronic disease in which there are high levels of sugar in the blood. While it’s often diagnosed in young children, it can be found at any life stage. One in 400 people under 20 years of age has diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
“I had many questions. I was kind of nervous because I didn’t know what was going on and what I was supposed to do,” Yesica said. “It was a tough experience.”
The diagnosis has changed her life, and, most noticeably, her daily routine.
She injects insulin, which helps keep her blood sugar at a normal level, six times a day every day, said 11-year-old Yesica. She leaves class twice a day to see the school nurse and have her blood sugar checked. On days she’s not feeling well, she sees the nurse more often.
“It’s hard,” she said.
“Diabetes needs constant attention,” said Dr. Angela Tridgell, an endocrinologist at Children’s McNeely Pediatric Diabetes Center. “It’s something you can never take a vacation from.”
Those with Type 1 Diabetes often have to check blood sugar levels four to six times a day and take insulin four to six times a day, Tridgell said.
Children’s takes an aggressive and comprehensive approach to treating its patients, she said. They come in for at least four visits annually. The visit involves seeing a physician or nurse practitioner for a physical exam and analyzing blood sugar results to determine whether a change in insulin dosage is needed. A patient may also meet with a diabetes nurse educator, dietitian, psychologist or social worker – depending on needs.
“Our goal is to help a child be as normal as possible and be as healthy as possible,” Tridgell said.
Though the experience has been challenging for Yesica, she said she has found support by joining Children’s Youth Advisory Council where she can connect with other patients.
“I’ve learned that I should appreciate life and that I should stay strong no matter what,” Yesica said.