continued Helen, now 22, was 16 years old when she was diagnosed with diabetes. The diagnosis was accidental. "I broke my arm, and they had to operate on me to set my arm with pins. In my pre-op workups, they took blood and urine samples that showed I was diabetic. I didn't find out until about two weeks after the surgery. My blood sugar was over 400 after I hadn't eaten anything for a while." (A normal blood-sugar level is between 80 and 120.)
As is the case with many teenagers, Helen's physicians found mixed indications that made them unsure whether she had Type I or Type II diabetes. Overweight at the time of her diagnosis, her family doctor originally prescribed an oral medication. "The orthopedic doctor told me to see my primary-care doctor about it. He put me on pills -- I don't remember the name of it, but after a couple of months they couldn't control it, so he sent me to a specialist. He kept me on the pills for a while, until I ended up in the hospital again. I've been on insulin ever since."
Living with diabetes is a burden for anyone, but for Helen, learning that she was diabetic at 16 was a big letdown. "I wasn't too happy about it. It scared me and overwhelmed me, to think I was going to have this for the rest of my life. I have to test my blood four times a day. Now I'm used to it. It's like a part of my life now. When I was on the pills, it was out of whack, but now I'm doing a bit better. I don't eat as much as I used to, and there's no more sweets. Sometimes it's tough to watch my friends eat junk food, because I'm the only diabetic. I wasn't really much of an ice cream person before, so it's not too hard."