Type 1 diabetes real lives
Since her diagnosis in 1975, Susan Czernich’s life has been impacted by the disease. Susan underwent islet cell transplantation and the results have been nothing short of astounding.
As a hairdresser in a busy salon, Susan often skipped meals — resulting in many ‘hypo’ episodes (hypoglycaemia – when blood sugar levels drop too low). She was also vulnerable to infection, using up her sick leave and having to take unpaid leave.
‘Islet cell transplantation has given me my life back.’
From the early 1990s Susan’s diabetes became chronic and she suffered from increasingly severe hypo episodes. She became afraid to sleep alone in her house. She was concerned that she might suffer a hypo episode while driving. “It was a shocking way to live,” she said.
Susan has now had two islet transplantations, with a third pending. So far, the results have been outstanding. Susan was completely off insulin for nine months.
While she might still need small amounts of insulin, her specialists are confident those hypo episodes are a thing of the past. “To say I’ve got my life back is an understatement. I’m hardly ever sick. I can sleep confidently in the house alone. I feel amazing!”
Susan is very grateful to the medical research that made this procedure possible. “People just don’t know how devastating this disease can be. They also don’t realise how many passionate and dedicated people are working hard, on very limited budgets, to really improve lives.”
At age 25, the wonderful news that she was pregnant was clouded by a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Sadly the effects of uncontrolled diabetes went on to cost Melissa the life of her first baby.
15 years after her diagnosis, Melissa and her husband have three children and she uses long-acting and short-acting insulin to control her diabetes. While she still has hypoglycaemic episodes, they are only occasional and are manageable.
“With some trial and error, I’ve found a diet and exercise regime that works for me. I feel in control and healthy, which is wonderful.”
In 2013, Melissa’s 11-year old son Charlie was also diagnosed with T1D.
“It’s tough when you’re young because you just want to be like your friends. So, having to monitor sugar levels, inject insulin and watch what and when you eat is not easy. He is managing really well though.
“I feel lucky to live in an age when we can treat the disease with insulin and monitor sugar levels. Most days, I see T1D as just being a lot of hard work to manage – a ‘pain’.”
Whenever the family travels they need to pack spare glucose monitors, batteries and extra needles and insulin.
Melissa is focused on how her son’s life might be improved by breakthroughs in research.
“On a day-to-day basis, it would be great to monitor sugars without needing to prick a finger a few times a day. A non- intrusive way to deliver insulin would also be a huge help. Of course, what I am really hopeful for is a complete cure, without a lifetime of drugs. That is what I hope for my son and future generations of type 1 diabetics.”