As both a member of the diabetes community and the public health field, the pandemic has been a substantial part of my life for the last year. As a resident of New York, we were hit hard by the early days of the pandemic, with many of my friends, family members, and eventually myself falling ill with COVID-19 in the spring. Despite all the precautions and measures my family took, both my mother and I became sick with COVID-19 in March 2020. I have been sick with the flu, strep throat, pneumonia, and everything in between over the years but nothing compared to this. The fever, exhaustion, and pain that took over my body was second to none. While I was only actively symptomatic for a little over a week, it took almost a month after for the mental fog to lift and my lung capacity to normalize. These physical symptoms do not include the mental toll I underwent during this time. The stress and anxiety of being not just sick but living with diabetes as well is something only a fellow T1D could understand.
"I have been sick with the flu, strep throat, pneumonia, and everything in between over the years but nothing compared to this."
Being so sick while also managing diabetes is a tricky task. When you’re ill, all you want to do is lie in bed and sleep all day -- but that is not possible for me. Despite the crippling symptoms, I still had to get up to test my sugar multiple times a day. I had to change my pump sites and Dexcom as needed. Even though I was not hungry and often found myself nauseous, I had to eat in order to keep my blood sugar in range. I was constantly on the low side from being sick and also not eating regularly. Diabetes does not take a pause just because you are sick, and each day was a battle to keep my blood sugar in check.
"Despite the crippling symptoms, I still had to get up to test my sugar multiple times a day."
The fear of complications due to the diagnosis sat heavily in the back of my mind. Having numerous pre-existing conditions, I was aware of the heightened risks that came with having COVID-19 and was terrified by what might happen if my symptoms worsened. I was also diagnosed with COVID-19 at the height of infection in New York state, adding to my already scary situation. I was fortunate enough to be able to make a full recovery at home. I modified a sick day plan I created with my endocrinologist when I went off to college. Focusing on what I could do to keep my blood sugar in range gave me some control over the situation and helped ease my mind. My Dexcom was also a great help because it allowed me to be proactive with my blood glucose levels taking away the worry of surprise low or high blood sugar.
"I modified a sick day plan I created with my endocrinologist when I went off to college. "
I am currently a student in a public health program and throughout the pandemic my school has been very accommodating. They were very helpful when I informed them I was COVID positive. At the start of the pandemic the school quickly offered online classes to students. By the end of February, all professors were offering virtual options to any student who did not feel comfortable attending in person classes. While I was sick, missed classes were forgiven, extensions were given on assignments, and well wishes were continually passed on to me without a second thought.
The best piece of advice I could give others living with diabetes during this time is be careful and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. If you do find yourself positive with COVID-19, follow the sick day plan your endocrinologist or healthcare provider made with you. If you do not have one, take the time now to map one out and prepare. Having a plan in place not only helped me physically, but mentally as well. I felt like I had the resources and support available to get me through my symptoms. Lastly, if you do get sick focus on getting better and ensuring your diabetes is taken care of while you're symptomatic. We will get through this!