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Surviving College with Type 1 Diabetes

By Xenia Minton

IMC Student

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It was the day before Halloween. During a swim practice, the freckled brown-eyed teenager was feeling overly exhausted. His twin brother had already been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, so Cooper Edmonson decided to call his parents to check his blood sugar.

Later at home that night, his mother stuck a thin, sharp needle into Cooper’s finger, and a blood sugar count of 330 appeared. This high number doomed the teenager into having to deal with the challenges of living with Type 1 Diabetes.

This type of diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make enough beta cells for the body, which gets rid of sugar in the bloodstream. When one has too much sugar in the bloodstream, the level goes up. Too much sugar in the bloodstream for too long affects the liver, kidneys and almost every other organ and poisons the body very slowly.

Edmonson, now a college sophomore, was 12 when he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. He is convinced he would have ended up at the hospital had he not discovered the case so early. In high school, Edmonson was able to monitor his numbers easier with the set schedule—running cross-country, attending daily classes and using a concise schedule of continuity helped keep the blood sugar amounts on track.

“My blood sugar has not been as great as it was in high school, but it’s gotten better over the years,” he said. “I’ve just learned that I need to take more control of my life and whatnot. Time management has been an interesting thing to learn about, but I’m getting there.”

Insulin is the most important item for diabetics to obtain, and balancing the sugars is vital. With high blood sugar, diabetics must put more insulin into their bodies. But with low blood sugar, it’s even more dangerous; if the sugar goes down to the 20s, diabetics can become unconscious and start seizing.

Edmonson is currently balancing Business and Exercise Science majors and a job as a food server job at The Sipp. He also lifts weights and runs. He works out and sets his work availability three to four times per week. With his busy schedule, eating remains to be a vital part of managing diabetes.

“It can get stressful at times,” said Cooper. “I need to have time to eat a full-course meal as well as work. Sometimes that doesn’t happen all the time. So my blood sugar can go low while I’m working. And so whenever that happens, I drink lemonade and have to take a break for a little bit and then just go straight back to it.”

Maintaining the normal college life of a freshman has had its moments with the add-on of diabetes. A notable memory includes the time Cooper walked into a freshman college party but forgot his most important necessity, sugar. Being far from his dorm, Cooper did not realize his blood sugar was dropping low—and quickly.

“I got really sad at this point because nobody else was really there with me, and I was just by myself. That was a scary moment for me. But eventually, I found my friends, they got me in the car, and I was able to get the sugar that I needed.”

Diabetes has put Cooper into situations where he has felt alone in the moment, but after reflecting on those experiences, he sighed optimistically and remembered that people have backed him up and supported him.

Thinking about incoming college students with diabetes and the advice he would give, Edmonson emphasized the importance of friendship.

“Try and search for the friends that are willing to listen to your story. Find people who are empathetic and who want to understand what you’re going through. Look for the people who put your safety above having a good time.”

He has continued living with this condition ever since middle school, and throwing in humor and positivity has served him well. When asked what song would describe having diabetes, Cooper jokingly answered “Sugar” by Maroon 5.

“I feel like some people don’t think that I’ve been through a whole lot and that I don’t have a lot of substance to my character,” he said. “But with me not being able to speak till I was like four or five years and then also having diabetes, I’ve kind of felt like an outcast to society. But, I’ve learned that it’s okay to be different. And there is no need to beat yourself up for it.”

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Adam Brown
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