Inspired to Help and Educate Others: Sarah's Story as a 'Type Onederful'

This article was written exclusively for Information About Diabetes by Sarah Havemann, a 21-year-old type 1 diabetic who developed the disease as a result of a respiratory infection. The diagnosis has inspired Sarah to become an advocate and to pursue a career in diabetes education.

Around April of this year, I got a really bad respiratory infection that doctors said killed off my pancreas’ beta cells. But, of course, I didn’t know that at the time.

Months went by and I was getting skinner, eating like crazy, craving sugar all day, excessively thirsty, getting up to pee five times a night, and extremely tired all the time. Not knowing the symptoms of diabetes, it never crossed my mind why my body was doing all of these things.

Discovering Diabetes

On Aug. 25, I was packing up all of my things to move back to school and decided to have a quick dinner with my boyfriend’s family before I left. As we sat down to eat dinner, I watched my boyfriend’s brother (who is type 1 diabetic) type into his pump. I asked him what he was doing, and he explained everything to me.

As we were talking about diabetes, they told me some of the symptoms he had, and I started to get scared because I was having the same exact ones. They were concerned, too, so they asked me if I wanted to test myself on his blood glucose monitor, and I said, “Sure, what's the worst that could happen?” I pricked my finger and put my blood on the strip, and we waited. Then, finally, it read, “Error.” So we did it again, and it read, “Error: Too high to read.”

My boyfriend’s family told me that was not good, and I started to freak out and cry. I called my parents, and they immediately took me to the hospital. They tested me at the hospital, and my blood sugar level was 620. Doctors and nurses frantically hooked me up to an IV, and I spent the night, waking up every hour for them to check my blood sugar.

Two days later, I finally got to go home. My 21st birthday was the next day. Doctors told me that I was lucky to be alive because if I hadn’t have found out beforehand and went out drinking sugary drinks, I could have put myself into a coma. Getting diagnosed the day before my 21st birthday was the worst, but I'm thankful to be alive.

Since the Diagnosis

My diabetes diagnosis changed my life for the better. When my blood sugar got back to normal, all of those weird symptoms went away. I had so much energy, I wasn’t getting up to pee five times a night, and I was eating better. The only thing that I was scared about was going back to school and being on my own with this new disease.

Testing my blood sugar and taking shots of insulin became a part of my routine. I educated my roommates on everything, and I didn’t let this disease bring me down. Because I’d been studying exercise science and nutrition, I felt like I had a head start on knowing which foods to eat. So this new lifestyle was a good change.

I was so grateful for what happened to me that I participated in “Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes” this year and raised $500 for it. Also, my family and friends came out to support me. We all wore blue “Type Onederful” T-shirts and got compliments from everyone. Being there was amazing because we were all strangers but all shared something incredible. It made me feel so grateful to be a part of something and make a difference.

I now want to take my degrees and pursue my career in diabetes education. I want to get the word out there about this disease and educate people on the difference between the two types. I didn’t know anything until I was diagnosed, but now that I know, I want to be able to help others as well.

I believe everything happens for a reason and even the worst possible events in life can lead to something amazing. Diabetes doesn't stop me from living my life like a normal person with a functioning pancreas. It has made me a stronger, better person, and I'm proud to call myself a type 1 diabetic!

Photo: Pexels

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