A day living with diabetes

Even the routine tasks for people with diabetes can be a challenge – as medical students in the SELECT program at the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine are now learning.

SELECT students agreed Thursday to take the “Bringing Science Home Diabetes Challenge.” They’ll carry a blood sugar monitor with them for the next 24 hours, check their blood sugar every few hours, respond to text messages about their diabetes and keep a journal on their experience.

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SELECT student Emma Qureshey gets some help testing her blood sugar.

Students soon realized that even the basic step of sticking a finger and collecting enough blood to test their glucose level is harder than it looks. Several students needed help to set up the monitors and advice on how to squeeze out more blood.

“We all thought it would be kind of easy,” said Jennifer Chevinsky. “And now we’ve already spent 10 minutes trying to figure out how to check our blood. So I think we’ll gain a good amount of perspective by the end.”

The challenge is sponsored by Bringing Science Home, the USF Health program established to help people with chronic diseases live more optimistic lives. SELECT (Scholarly Excellence, Leadership Experiences, Collaborative Training) is a two-year old partnership with the Lehigh Valley Health Network that emphasizes developing emotional intelligence skills and leadership abilities for tomorrow’s physician leaders.

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Nicole Johnson, executive director of Bringing Science Home, and high school student Emma Donahue talk with SELECT students.

SELECT program students sat down Thursday to hear from Nicole Johnson, executive director of Bringing Science Home, and several students and family members associated with the program.

“My mom said right from the get-go I have to check my blood sugar before I get in the car,” high school student Emma Donahue, who has diabetes, told the group. She knows that if her blood sugar drops, it may impair her driving ability.

Donahue always keeps her car stocked with snacks and extra testing supplies, just in case.  She also told the group about the challenges of controlling her blood sugar and participating on her high school swim team – an issue that struck close to home for some of the SELECT students.

“I was a swimmer in high school, and swimmers get light-headed,” said SELECT student Emma Qureshey. “We used to eat Jell-O packs between races – and that’s with normal blood sugar.”

That kind of understanding is exactly what Johnson is aiming for. USF graduate psychology students are also participating, and Johnson plans to sign up other student groups for the “Diabetes Challenge” as well.

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Emma Donahue talks about living with diabetes.

Johnson told the SELECT students Thursday that she knows three separate instances of high school teachers mistaking an insulin pump for a cell phone and trying to confiscate it – pulling the pump right out of the student’s body.

There are scarier possibilities as well. People with diabetes – and their family members – worry especially night time lows, which can be deadly if they don’t wake up. They are especially dangerous for young adults, who may not live with someone who can check on them.

“You’ll be getting one day in our shoes,” she told the group.

Learn more about Bringing Science Home at www.bringingsciencehome.com