By MARK and STACIE OSHIMA
How time flies. Fall is one of my favorite times of the year, because this is when our son Evan and our family raise awareness of Type One diabetes (T1D) and prepare for JDRF’s (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) One Walk!
This year, the walk will be held at Angels Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 3. I can’t believe it’s been over nine years since Evan was diagnosed with T1D. We participate in the walk because we hope that one day Evan can say he used to have diabetes.
We invite you to join Evan’s JDRF team, Evan’s Evangers, come to the One Walk, and consider making a donation to this cause that is so close to our hearts: https://tinyurl.com/EvansEvangersJDRF2023
And speaking of time flying, this summer Evan turned 15½. He has been looking forward to driving for quite a while. He completed his online driver’s class and studied the California Driver’s Handbook to memorize facts such as the fine for abandoning animals on the highway. (In case you’re curious, this act is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, six months in jail, or both.) His hard work paid off when he passed his driver’s permit test.
Typically, going to the DMV is not something people look forward to. I had no idea how much more complicated that experience can be if you have a medical condition like T1D. To help prepare him for this process, CHOC (Children’s Hospital of Orange County) has an endocrinology transition coordinator who educates families on what to expect when it comes to driving. Evan met with this coordinator and attended the “Driving with Diabetes” class.
When he applied for his driver’s permit, as recommended, he disclosed that he had a medical condition (T1D) that could affect his ability to drive safely. When Evan passed his permit exam, he was told by the DMV that they would be forwarding his information to their Driver Safety Branch for next steps because of this disclosure.
CHOC had already confirmed with us that they were submitting paperwork to let the Safety Branch know his diabetes is well-managed and that they did not have any concerns about it impairing his driving. The majority of the time, the DMV doesn’t require anything other than this paperwork to clear those with well-managed T1D for driving.
Unfortunately, a few weeks later, we received a letter from the DMV requiring that Evan attend a re-examination appointment with a hearing officer to evaluate his ability to drive safely. Failure to keep the appointment (which was scheduled during school) would result in suspension of his driving.
While I understand the intent behind these safety measures – I am supportive of evaluating people’s ability to operate a car in a safe manner – I was surprised and upset. I was not expecting the DMV to question the judgment of Evan’s endocrinology team, who has closely monitored Evan’s maintenance of T1D for years and has confidence in how he manages his condition.
But to be entirely honest, I was more upset at the fact that “inconveniences” like this are something that Evan has to deal with throughout his life because he has diabetes.
Getting his driver’s permit is a one-time thing, but Evan has to deal with the inconveniences of living with T1D in every aspect of his life.
Sleep is disrupted. Multiple times a week, Evan wakes up in the middle of the night to dose insulin when his blood glucose is high or drink juice when it’s low.
Eating is disrupted. He often doses insulin for dinner and then waits over an hour to eat if his glucose is stubbornly high, because when it’s that high, it takes even longer for the insulin to bring his glucose in range. He’s always silently counting the carbs in everything he eats, whether he’s at home, school, a restaurant, or a friend’s house.
Playing sports is disrupted. Evan has to plan ahead of time and “pre-load” by eating extra carbs an hour before he engages in any type of physical activity (baseball and basketball practices and games, working out, etc.) to help prevent hypoglycemic (low blood glucose) episodes. He has to sit out during games when his glucose plummets from the physical activity.
Travel is disrupted. He is inconvenienced every time he gets on a plane to fly anywhere. His insulin pump and his continuous glucose monitors cannot go through the body scanner machine at the airport, so he has to wait for a TSA agent to pat him down, hand-check his devices and medications, swab his hands, and open his juice boxes. He disconnects his pump from his body during take-off and landing, as the change in cabin pressure can cause unintended insulin delivery.
In short, Evan’s life is disrupted; and yet he has learned to take it in stride.
And while inconveniences like these are a frustrating reality of Evan’s life, they’re nothing compared to the reality of complications that can arise from having T1D – seizure, diabetic coma, permanent eye damage and blindness, neuropathy, kidney disease, heart disease, and severe hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia with deadly results.
This is why we participate in the JDRF One Walk. We want to be part of building a brighter future for Evan and those living with T1D. Our goal is to do everything we can to help find a cure for T1D so Evan doesn’t have to worry about diabetic inconveniences or life-threatening complications.
We would love for you to join us in any way you’re able to, whether walking with Evan’s Evangers on Dec. 3 or donating to his One Walk team: https://tinyurl.com/EvansEvangersJDRF2023.
Thank you for being such an important part of our lives. With your support, let’s turn Type One into Type None!