Diabetic students deal with daily struggle of disease

Lily Geiser | Staff Writer

30.3 million people in the United States have diabetes. But it’s still one of the most misunderstood diseases in the world.

Diabetes, a disease becoming more and more common in the United States, makes it difficult to properly digest carbohydrates, which can cause extreme spikes in blood sugar levels. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes primarily impacts the body’s regulation of the hormone insulin, which regulates these blood sugar levels. Whether that means the body does not produce insulin at all (Type I) or it is insulin resistant (Type II) it impacts millions of people around the world daily. 

With the obesity crisis at its peak, diabetes is often considered a side effect of unhealthy habits. However, senior Samitha Kukkillaya, who has Type I diabetes, says that this is not always the case.

“People think that obese people are the ones that get diabetes, and that you’re eating wrong if you have it,” Kukkillaya said. “But that’s part of Type II, not Type I. I don’t think many people know the difference between Type I and Type II.”

Although the exact cause of the disease is not fully understood yet, it is thought that both types are brought on by a combination of environmental factors and genetic predispositions. Type I diabetes is most often diagnosed in children and adolescents, and has a stronger genetic linkage than Type II. Kukkillaya herself was diagnosed nearly four years ago.

“I got it freshman year in January,” Kukkillaya said. “I was drinking like six bottles of water a day and I still felt really dehydrated. I lost fifteen pounds, I went to the bathroom every hour, and I also felt really tired. I was in the hospital for three days after I got diagnosed. That’s when I found out about it.”

Senior Samitha Kukkilaya was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes and has to frequently inject insulin into her arm to regulate her blood sugar levels.

Sophomore Lauren Schrand was diagnosed when she was five, and although she was much younger than Kukkillaya, she experienced many of the same symptoms. Schrand said a common misconception is that her Type I diagnosis places a restriction on her food intake, when, in actuality, her diet has remained consistent. 

“A lot of people think I can’t eat certain things,” Schrand said. “Like, people think I just can’t eat sugar, and I can. I can eat whatever I want as long I get insulin for it.”

Schrand has this flexibility in part due to the insulin pump she has in her arm. This pump is able to continuously deliver insulin to her bloodstream as she needs it, which can help to prevent the extreme highs and lows in blood sugar occurring for diabetes patients. Freshman Eva Bause also has a pump for her insulin, and while this prevents her from needing the frequent insulin shots that others with diabetes require, Bause said it also spawns frequent attention from others. 

“It’s just hard, when I have to wear cute clothes or something, like a dress,” Bause said. “I take insulin through my pump, so I have to wear my pump. A lot of people will point it out or stare.”

Although strangers may stare, friends and family are usually understanding of the limitations the disease may or may not place on those afflicted. Kukkillaya says that although the disease does sometimes impact her life, her friends are there to support her.

“I usually just eat what I want,” Kukkillaya said. “I just make sure to take a shot with it. But sometimes, when I run out of insulin, my friends have to drive me back or I go back home and get it. But other than that, they don’t care. They know it’s important for me to check it.”

Graphic by Ryan D’Souza.

Picture by Lily Geiser.