Amanda Tyrpin - Type 1 Diabetes
Finding out you have diabetes can be overwhelming for anyone, especially for a young child — as was in the case of Amanda Tyrpin, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the tender age of four. Now, more than 16 years later, Amanda has given herself over 19,000 injections — not to mention the thousands of finger pricks to test her blood sugar. But like most young children diagnosed with diabetes, Amanda has grown up with the disease and she cannot remember the few years of her life without it.
Today, Amanda is a normal college student who works part-time and enjoys seeing her boyfriend. But as Amanda eats her lunch at a local restaurant and discusses her upcoming college courses, she quietly and matter-of-factly pulls a syringe from her purse, calibrates the amount of insulin she needs, and without hesitation continues talking and gently slides the needle under her skin. Of course, she is used to giving herself injections — she has had plenty of practice — but her “normal” way of life is, and has been, drastically different than most her age.
Amanda’s story with diabetes began when she four years old. She was a rambunctious little girl who loved to dance, play dress-up, spin in frilly dresses, and eat Lucky Charms for breakfast. And just like a lot of children, Amanda began wetting the bed at night. Diane, Amanda’s mom, felt this was normal and decided to simply limit Amanda’s liquid intake before she went to sleep. But the bed wetting persisted and, when Diane caught her daughter drinking water from the bathroom sink faucet, she knew something was wrong. Thinking Amanda had a urinary tract infection, Diane took her to visit their primary care physician. What Diane did not realize was that the reoccurring bed wetting and extreme thirst were symptoms of type 1 diabetes.
At their physician’s office, Amanda’s blood and urine samples were tested. The results shocked her parents: Amanda had type 1 diabetes. Without much time to think about the diagnosis, Amanda and her parents were whisked away to a nearby Children’s Hospital to treat her elevated blood glucose level. After five grueling days, Amanda was sent home and her life with diabetes was set in motion. Her mom began giving her injections and monitoring her glucose levels. At the time she was on two injections per day: one injection in the morning and one in the evening before bed. “My mom said I was really good about taking the shots. As time went on, though, I would ask her when I was going to get better, because I didn’t understand I had a disease. I can imagine that must have been hard for her.”
Growing up, Amanda’s experience in school was much the same as other kids. However, she would stop at the school’s office each day before lunch to test her blood glucose and give herself an injection. The amount of insulin she needed was determined by what she was going to eat for lunch. “I didn’t think much of it and neither did my friends or other classmates.”
In the third grade, Amanda won “The Young Author’s Award” for a story she wrote depicting her life with diabetes. The endocrinologist she was seeing at the time even made slides of her story to show children recently diagnosed with the disease. “That was a neat experience and I still think it was great that my physician used my story to teach others.”
While Amanda enjoyed cheerleading and spending time with friends, some of the ordinary childhood activities like trick-or-treating needed an added twist. “I would get dressed up in a costume and go trick-or-treating but dad would make a deal with me. He would give me money in exchange for the candy I brought home and I could use it to buy whatever, a toy or even sugar-free candy. So it wasn’t that bad.”
Living with diabetes became routine for Amanda. At the age of 10, Amanda began giving herself her own injections. “I remember the stares I used to get in public and the faces people would make when I needed to take insulin. That used to bother me. Now, I don’t care. I try to be discreet about the injections but the looks don’t bother me anymore.” But her friends were much more sympathetic and were always there to lend a hand. Amanda recalls, “At cheerleading practice, if my sugar was getting low, they would go to a vending machine to buy a snack for me. They were really good about it.”
Aside from the daily management it took to control her disease, several scary situations occurred for Amanda and her family. “When I was a freshman in high school, my cheerleading squad had a sleepover. In the morning around 11:00 a.m., everyone was awake except me. All of my friends thought I was sleeping. They tried to wake me up but I was unconscious. Luckily, my friend’s mother who was hosting the sleepover was also a diabetic and knew what to do. She checked my blood sugar and it was very low so she found my glucagon emergency kit and gave me the injection. I woke up and everything was fine, except all of my friends were frightened and crying.”
Amanda’s medical care is overseen by endocrinologist Dr. Rodica Pop-Busui at the University of Michigan Health System's Metabolism, Endocrinology, & Diabetes Division. “I like Dr. Pop-Busui. She is easy to talk to and she understands how I am feeling and listens to what I have to say.”
Amanda gives much thanks to her family’s support over the years. “There were times I felt upset or different because I had diabetes. My family was always there for me through support and encouragement. They taught me to believe in myself and to know that I was in control of my life, not the diabetes.”
What does Amanda want to tell others who have diabetes? “Living with diabetes can be frustrating at times but don’t let the disease become who you are. Just think that things could be worse and as long as you take care of yourself, you can live a normal, productive, happy life!”