The bell rang for the second lunch period at Southwest DeKalb High School, and Janae Reed headed to the cafeteria to decide what she wanted for lunch.
After lunch, she counted the number of carbohydrates that she had eaten for lunch and calculated the amount of insulin she needed in her next shot.
A bell rang to release the students from lunch and head back to class, Reed walked through the front office and headed to the back where Mrs. Sabrina Ali, the school secretary, was there to administer the medicine. The school does not have a nurse, so the secretary is charged with taking care of all the medicine for students at the high school.
Ali asked Reed what she had for lunch “Two fruit cups, broccoli, baked chicken and milk,” Reed answered.
While talking to Ali about her day, Reed took out her blood sugar monitor from the drawer and proceeded to check her numbers.
“So what does you’re reading say?” Ali asked.
“My reading was 249 and it was only that high because I really didn’t eat breakfast this morning. And I already know that’s not good so you don’t have to fuss at me I’ll do better,” Reed replied.
After calculating the amount of insulin that is needed, Reed lifts her shirt and injects the insulin into her stomach. This is a familiar routine for the 17-year-old junior, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes on March 10, 2010.
The Scary Diagnosis
Diabetes sneaked up on Reed suddenly, with subtle signs: Tiredness. Constant thirst. Frequent trips to the bathroom.
One afternoon, while at a family bar-b-que she went to the bathroom about six times in an hour, and her aunt realized that something was not right and it could be symptoms of diabetes and that her mother should get that checked.
That Monday morning, Banks called Reed’s pediatrician, Dr. Echols to schedule an appointment about her symptoms. When she got to the doctor’s office, they took her right away so they could find out what was causing her to urinate and drink so much.
After running several test, Dr. Echols asked, “Does diabetes run in your family?” and Banks answered “Yes it does run on my mother and father side of the family.” Echols replied, “Well from the test that we ran the result show that Janae has Type 2 diabetes.”
Banks was shocked because she didn’t think that her daughter would be diagnosed with a disease like that. Sitting there in confusion, Reed asked “What exactly is Type 2 diabetes and how did I get it?” Echols replied, “Type 2 diabetes is when your body is not using the insulin properly and that’s not good especially for someone your age. And you could’ve gotten because of the history in your family. Even though your mom does not have it doesn’t mean that you or someone in your family can’t get it.”
After finding about the disease, Reed didn’t seem to be bothered by it but Banks was a little concerned because she still didn’t understand how her sweet and loving daughter could get such a disease.
Reed says she was excited to learn more about her disease and the proper steps needed to keep her blood sugar level at a reasonable and expectable number.
Reed, her mother- Yvonne Banks, and Aunt Lea Banks, attend at least two classes every month regarding childhood diabetes.
They took these classes together because it was required that at least one family member comes along so they can know what to do with a child that has diabetes. Reed chose her Aunt Lea to come because her house was a place she visited frequently.
In each class, the doctors and nurses demonstrated to Reed how to check her reading, calculate the amount of carbohydrates for each meal she eats and how to inject the medicine into her body.
One of the doctor’s at the class who saw a special interest in Reed was Dr. Megan Consedine Pruett, MD, an Endocrinologist pediatrician at Emory Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Dr. Pruett loved the enthusiasm and interest that Reed had in learning more about her disease.
So, Dr. Pruett made it her business to become the pediatrician for Reed because of the bod that they developed at the classes that she attended once a month.
Once she was her pediatrician, she made sure that Reed was being responsible with taking her medicine on time and also watching the certain things that she ate.
At her first doctor’s appointment, Dr. Pruett asked, “So how are you adapting to being a diabetic?”
Reed replied, “It’s going good so far. I’m just still getting used to how I can’t eat food as freely as I used to.”
Dr. Pruett explained, “Being a diabetic is very hard because now you have to transform your whole life into measuring the different foods you eat and how some foods you have to take medicine for in order to balance and produce enough insulin in your body.”
“Being a child diabetic is even harder because now it is very rare that you have children this young being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. We see it more so in adults because of their poor eating habits and bad health,” Pruett said.
Type 1 diabetes is known as juvenile diabetes and only 5% of people have diabetes.
Between 2001 and 2009 there was a 21% increase in the prevalence of Type 1 diabetes in people under age 20.
Once Reed understood how serious her disease was she did everything she could to change her life for the better.
When Reed was first diagnosed, her immediate family was confused and didn’t understand how such a sweet and loving dancer, cheerleader and Girl Scout could develop disease.
Reed didn’t see it that way. Reed saw the diagnosis as exciting and interesting; although at her age, she didn’t see it as a curse to her body. As she has gotten older, Reed has had complications and family problems that would trigger her blood sugar to either decrease or increase.
Some of those complications would be her ketones were too dark or when her sugar level was too low she would get light headed and throw up and potentially pass out and have to be admitted to the hospital.
Ketones are the result of the body burning fat for energy or fuel. For a person with diabetes, ketones are often the result of prolonged high blood sugar and insulin deficiency.
According to Dr. Jennifer Gilligan, MD Endocrinologist at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, Ga., “Ketones can be very dangerous to the body especially in diabetics because when their showing high ketones levels in combination with high blood glucose levels it can lead to a dangerously toxic body and the condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis.”
Diabetic ketoacidosis can occur in between 16%-80% of children presenting with newly diagnosed diabetes.
Before the discovery of insulin, mortality rates were up to 100%. Today, the mortality has fallen to around 2% due to early identification and treatment.
Dr. Gilligan has been specializing in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism for 12 years.
“Ketoacidosis can also be the first sign of diabetes, especially when there isn’t a formal diagnosis in the patient,” says Gilligan.
“This disease is rarely seen in adults but more so in children because their diet could be very low in calories, nutrients, or carbohydrates. Ketones in the urine can also be produced from weight loss, prolonged vomiting or the excessive use of aspirin.”
“In most cases, the way to avoid this disease in diabetics is when the body may compensate for the lack of carbs and calories by breaking down fat in the body to use the ketones for energy,” says Gilligan.
“When dealing with children who have diabetes, it can be tough because most children at a young age don’t understand what’s going on,” says Tanicia C. Daley Jean-Pierre, MD Pediatric Endocrinologist at Emory Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Dr. Daley Jean Pierre has been a pediatric endocrinologist for the past 12 years. Her specialty is diabetes in children.
“Now a days diabetes has been very common in children especially Type 2 diabetes,” says Daley.
“Most children (mainly teenagers) with Type 2 diabetes struggle with coping with this disease because they never understand how someone their age can get diabetes. They only think that happens to adults, but now when child gets Type 2 diabetes that means someone in their family has it as well,” said Daley.
Upon entering her puberty stage, Reed’s life took a turn for the worse at one point. At the age of 13, Reed’s father committed a crime that changed her life forever and affected her mentally, emotionally and physically.
Reed’s father murdered his wife and dogs and in the crossfire her older cousin was injured. Reed went into a depression stage and was diagnosed with depression and put on anti-depressant pills.
Reed had to deal with losing her step mother, her dog, her older cousin being shot by her father and her father being arrested and sentenced to life in prison for all of those crimes.
It was hard for Reed to cope with this change in her life because she never thought that the man she knew as her father who helped raise and provide for her could do such an unforgiveable and horrible act of violence to people she loved.
After handling that loss, Janae began to struggle with life and trying to find herself and knowing who she is a person. At one point she thought about suicide by refusing to take her medication when necessary because she blamed herself for the mistakes and decisions her dad made in his life.
By the time her mother noticed the signs, Janae was admitted to the hospital and put on suicide watch until they knew she was okay and didn’t want to harm herself anymore. Once the observation was complete, she was released to go home.
Reed’s pediatrician referred her to a counselor who deals with patients that have diabetes and develops mental illnesses.
The counselor is Dr. Sobha Fritz, Pediatric Psychologist at Emory Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Her specialty is endocrinology and counseling patients with diabetes.
Reed’s first few visits to Dr. Fritz were very odd because for the whole she spent with Fritz, Reed would just sit there in silence until her time was up.
“It was can be difficult for children to open to a stranger because they don’t want that person in their personal business,” says Fritz.
Fritz said, “I have been a psychologist for many years and have dealt with children of all ages and cases but Janae was a different case. The reason I say she was different was because for the first six visits she would not say a word but just sit and look at me and because of that sometimes I would end the sessions short because I felt it was no point in wasting both of our times.”
Reed’s next visit to Dr. Fritz, she brought up Reed wanting to commit suicide and why she thought taking her own life would be okay.
Reed was hesitant at first, but then she became a little more comfortable and began to open about that situation and many others that were bothering her.
Fritz explained, “Not taking your medicine is more hurtful to you than anyone else because you’re the one that needs it the most. Yes life is tough but wanting to kill yourself is not helping but making things bad for your family.”
Once Reed understood that she began to do better. Reed began to show a different outlook and perspective on life.
Reed found different ways to be active and keep focusing on getting better every day.
One of those ways was becoming a Girl Scout. Reed made sure that she was present at every event and every trip they took to different places.
After several visits to Dr. Fritz, Reed became more comfortable with speaking to her about the problems she was having, whether it was school or at home.
Fritz even had session that included her mother because in order for Reed to have a healthy life and not be stressed she had to have a good relationship with her mother.
At times it was complicated and rocky but with the help of counseling she is living a healthy and good life.
With the continuous weekly counseling sessions, Reed is getting better at living a better life and not letting things discourage her.
Someone just like her
Reed always thought that she was the only person her age that could have such a serious disease like Type 2 diabetes. But little did she know that a friend in her circle was going through the same situation.
Reed’s friend Mikayla Horton was also a teen with Type 2 diabetes. Reed didn’t know because Horton was just recently diagnosis three years ago.
When Horton found out she was confused, hurt and didn’t understand how someone like her could be this sick and did not know.
Once Horton told Reed the news, Reed was a little shocked but relieved because she didn’t have to take this journey by herself.
Reed told Horton “I will help you through the whole process and to understand that things may not get easier and will be tough at times but you will get through it.”
Because of the illness that they had in common the friendship between the two transformed into a sisterhood.
Horton stated, “I really appreciate Janae because even though she’s been dealing with this longer than me she helped me to see a different perspective of having diabetes.”
“It has been tough for me these past couple of years because when I finally felt comfortable to tell people they would act different or strange but not Janae she was there with me through the whole process,” says Horton.
It has been tough for these young girls but they have been making it through.
With the help of family and friends their transformation has made a positive impact on others’ lives.
Navigating high school
On Reed’s first day of school, all of her teachers were informed of her illness.
They had to go through a process of paperwork and sign forms stating they understand her illness and that Reed is rewarded special privileges because of it. The form that the teachers and principal signed is called the 504 plan.
This plan was developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment.
Once the paperwork was completed at the beginning of every school year all of Reed’s teachers knew and understood about her illness and the importance of it.
She was even given a special pass different from the other students that would excuse her from class when it was necessary.
Reed’s life started to take a different direction, a direction of positivity and maturity. Reed was scared about starting high school because she didn’t think people would like her or accept her but she found ways to make friends and get involved.
Reed struggled a little but she made sure that she would be active and involved in school.
One way was joining the school dance team. Reed knew that she would make it because she had the skills and technique to be a dancer and could remember all the routines.
On her first tryout, she made it to final round and became a part of the team. Her first couple of months was struggle because she was missing practice due to doctor appointments and being ill.
It did bother Reed a little that she couldn’t do as much as she wanted to but that didn’t stop her from being a part of the team. After a couple of weeks, it began to take a toll on her so she decided to quit and try again another year.
After dealing with not being a part of the dance team, Reed still had some struggles with this new way of eating at school.
Reed didn’t like how she was limited to eating certain foods or that the snacks she was used to eating weren’t available anymore.
Throughout the next few months of school, Reed struggled more because the different food options that were offered she didn’t like or just didn’t want to eat at all so that had an effect on her diabetes.
“Some days when I wouldn’t eat the school lunch I would try to make my own lunch and pack snacks because I know I couldn’t eat the snacks in the vending machine,” Reed said.
“It’s a little frustrating when I can’t have what I want because it could effect my glucose levels,” says Reed.
Even though she battled with that problem, there was one teacher who helped her look at in a different perspective which was Ms. Opal Nixon, Physics teacher at Southwest DeKalb High School.
When Ms. Nixon first found out about Reed’s disease she was shocked because she didn’t think any of her students were that sick or could get that sick.
“When you first meet a student you wouldn’t think that they would have a disease like diabetes especially if they didn’t look like it,” says Nixon.
“It was new for me having a student with diabetes but Janae is such a sweet and loving girl and you wouldn’t think just by talking to her that she would be sick,” said Nixon.
Once Nixon was used to Reed and making sure that she was taken care of with her work or anything personal she made it easy for Reed to understand the work and complete it on time.
Another teacher that helped with Reed with her transition with high school and diabetes was her online class teacher Mrs. Meagan Calloway.
Reed would have her days where she wouldn’t be feeling too well or struggling with school.
Calloway would always tell Reed, “Janae, this disease is not to harm you but help you live a better healthy life. Yes, having diabetes can be tough but sometimes things happen for a reason and we can’t change it but learn to embrace it and deal with it the best way we can.”
Reed injecting the insulin into her stomach.
Insulin pin called Basaglar Kwikpen
Insulin pin called Homalog Kwikpen
Venn Diagram on the similarities and difference between Type 1 and 2 diabetes