Ryan – Age 16
My name is Ryan Fell. I am 16 years old and a junior at West Salem High School. It is an honor to share my story about how type 1 diabetes (T1D) has impacted my life.
On September 22, 2014 my life changed forever. It was on this day that I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes or T1D. Prior to my date of diagnosis, I was not familiar with what type 1 diabetes was. Some of you in the audience may be in the same shoes as I was. For those of you who do not know, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas does not produce insulin, something we all need to live. I did not do anything to cause type 1 diabetes, it was just something that happened. Now, I am required to manage my blood sugars 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, just in order to live.
After I was diagnosed, I spent two days in the hospital learning what I could about diabetes. My “new normal” was now going to consist of counting carbs for everything I ate, pricking my finger at least 8-10 times a day to check my blood sugar, and injecting myself with insulin every time I ate. While there was a lot of new information to take in, I remember thinking I wasn’t going to let this disease stop me from doing what I love. I returned to school the day after I was released from the hospital, I was marching in the Cranberry Fest parade that weekend, and I was back on the playing field the following week. Even at the age of 12, I felt confident enough that I could handle this new normal. Continuing to do the things I love is and will always be important to me.
Several months after being diagnosed I received my first insulin pump and Continuous Glucose Monitor. The pump administers how much insulin I need and the CGM monitors my blood sugar levels and has helped me improvement my control and management of these numbers throughout the day. This technology helps me have more control and management over my blood sugar and makes my daily life much easier to handle but I still have to think about T1D every moment. Having an insulin pump and CGM would not be possible without the support of JDRF and everyone who is involved with the organization, but we need more than this, we need a cure.
Managing diabetes is an everyday struggle. I have a constant roller coaster of highs and lows. Trying to figure out what causes changes in my blood sugar and then attempting to correct with food or insulin can be extremely frustrating. During soccer season is when I really struggle to maintain level blood sugar numbers. The increased activity drops my blood sugar numbers and I then need to eat to bring it back up. I couldn’t do this alone and am very thankful for all the support I have. My school is very understanding since I do miss class time often due to low or high blood sugar. Diabetes not only affects the individual who has it but the whole family. Everyone in the family is educated on diabetes and how to handle it. My mom is constantly worrying about me (which can be annoying at times) and does her best to help me navigate the ups and downs of having diabetes.
I have always stated that I will not let this disease slow me down. I have and always will be active in activities that I enjoy. I’m active in soccer, both as a player and a referee. I also help coach my sister’s soccer team. I am in the process of earning my Eagle Scout and have worked at Camp Decorah for the past 2 summers, where I lived at camp for the week and only coming home for a day off on Saturday. In middle school I was involved in Odyssey of the Mind where my team went to World Finals during our 8th grade year and I have stayed active in high school by helping to coach my sisters’ team. As you can see I am active and diabetes is not going to stop me.
Many of you who are reading my story are touched by T1D and can relate to my experiences. However, even if you are not affected directly by T1D, you can still help bring us closer to better treatments and ultimately a cure. A world without T1D is possible, but we’re going to need all the support we can get to make it happen!
Ryan is currently serving as the 2018-2019 JDRF La Crosse Youth Ambassador and recently was the Fund a Cure speaker at the 2019 JDRF La Crosse Winter Gala. . If you would like to donate to Fund A Cure, you still can by visiting the JDRF La Crosse Gala website. Thank you to Ryan and his family for sharing their story and setting a great example for the T1D community!
If you want to submit a story about your diabetes journey like Ryan, please contact Jen Allen!