Traverse City’s Elliot Lamie was just 3 years old when he was diagnosed as having diabetes, so he has no real memory of not having the condition as part of his daily life. We asked Elliot and his dad, Dr. Steve Lamie, if, as part of November’s American Diabetes Month, they would be willing to discuss what it takes to have a thriving childhood while managing diabetes and to look ahead at technologies that are making diabetes management easier and more precise than ever.
First, Dr. Lamie, what exactly is Type 1 diabetes?
Dr. Lamie: I like to explain Type 1 diabetes as a disease where the body attacks the cells in the pancreas so a person doesn’t make their own insulin and needs insulin by shots or insulin pump so they can use the carbohydrates they are eating.
Thank you, so Elliot, tell us some basics about yourself. What school do you go to, and what grade are you in?
Elliot: I go to Grand Traverse Area Catholic Schools and I’m in seventh grade there, I’m 13. In volleyball season I play volleyball.
So you are in school like any other kid. What is it like managing your blood sugar levels in school all day?
Elliot: Well I’ve done different things. Like, my advising teacher would check my blood sugar levels before gym, before lunch and before school got out. She would text the numbers to my mom.
Dr. Lamie: When he was younger, like five and six years old, we would drive to the school and test his blood sugar levels ourselves. That was just part of our comfort level, part of just being a parent and feeling that, with a younger child, just a little more secure about it all. But now with the texting of the numbers it’s a lot easier.
After you know your levels, how do you adjust your insulin in school?
Elliot: I have an insulin pump connected to me, so I just adjust it that way. I do that myself. But, I eat everything everybody else eats. I do gym every day. It’s just like everybody else.
Is it hard to remember to do those checks with everything going on in school?
Elliot: No. I’ve done it for so long, it’s just a habit now. I always know when to check. And I know if I feel low that I need to check it.
Are your friends curious about what it means to be diabetic?
Elliot: Normally they’d see the cord from the pump and then ask me about it. I tell them I’m Type 1 diabetic, and that’s about it. They get it.
Do you think they get it, or do you think they just don’t know what else to say about it?
Elliot: Yeah, probably that.
Other than the pump, what kinds of things are important to have with you?
Elliot: I carry a fanny pack and it has a meter, test strips, and sugar, and that reminds me that I have to stay on top of it.
Dr. Lamie: Also, as a family, it’s just a part of our habit, the way we do things. So at meals, at bedtime, we’ll just ask, “Did you do your test?” As a dad, I want to pass along to parents that he’s just a normal kid, gets to do what he wants to do and we get along as a normal family. As a doctor, I saw a patient the other day who has had diabetes for 50 years and is doing fine. It’s about managing it well.
Tell us about technology that is making managing diabetes easier and more precise.
Dr. Lamie: Well, one of the things you worry about most as a parent is are your child’s levels getting low during the night. And those worries are that much greater when, say, he’s spending the night at a friend’s house. Will the friend’s parents really know how to help with the sugar? But Elliot now has a continuous monitor for his blood levels and if it gets out of balance, it will send a message to a device; we have one next to our bed. The next step for that would be a system that would send a text to my phone and to Elliot’s phone. The FDA has already approved a system that sends a message to a phone. And beyond that would be a system that would be a closed-loop system, that is, it would monitor the person’s blood sugar levels and then communicate directly with the insulin pump to add dosage. I’m pretty excited about all of that because it will be just that much less hassle for Elliot.
Elliot, what would you say to a child who has been recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and who might be wondering and maybe a little scared about his or her future?
Elliot: I would say diabetes is something you can conquer and live with.