Does Diabetes Control You? Will Daugherty

Will Daugherty

Have you ever asked yourself why this or that happened? Well, that is what my parents have been asking God for nearly 12 years. As many of you know, I have Type 1 diabetes, and diabetes is a major cause of early deaths in the country, if not carefully treated.

Many people have asked me “what is that you are doing?” and “why are you doing this?” One of the most commonly asked questions is “why are you bleeding” or “why are you pricking yourself.”  The reason I do this is because my pancreas hasn’t worked since I was 17 months old. Your pancreas is the organ that secretes insulin in the body. Insulin balances the body’s level of glucose in the blood. Since my body does not make insulin, my blood sugar goes way up, causing me to need insulin from my insulin pump. If I give too much, my blood sugar goes too low. This low sugar causes my liver to make glucose and pushes it into my system a little later. This is called a rebound.

The first thing that people usually see me doing is pricking my finger, since I do it about 10 times a day. A lot of people have asked me if it hurts, and most of the time I say I can barely feel it after 12 years.

The second thing that most people ask about is “what is that thing on your stomach?” or “what is that cord?” The answer I usually say is “nothing” trying not to confuse them or waste time explaining everything. But it is actually an insulin pump. This pretty much works like a pancreas that I control. It has an insulin vial inside of it and I just have to press a button and dial in how much to dose. But before I can give my insulin, I have to count all of my carbohydrates every time I eat.  I must either memorize the food labels of items or guess by looking, feeling and tasting how sweet something is.  For example, for every 20 grams of carbohydrate I eat I dose 1 unit of insulin.

Needless to say I have to do a lot of math in my head everyday to calculate the needed dose for my meals or a high blood sugar levels.

Along with determining my insulin dose, I shoot for a target blood sugar level. The minimum that I want it to be is around 100 mg/dl. If I am exercising I need it to be around 200 mg/dl before I begin. The levels that I hope for are between 120-170 mg/dl. When I was first diagnosed with diabetes my blood sugar was above 1,000 mg/dl. The doctors said I would have died in a few weeks if not properly diagnosed.

Stress and exercise impacts my blood sugar a whole lot. After both of these I have to either increase or decrease my insulin rates. My insulin pump is a very precise delivery device able to regulate to an exact insulin amount as small as a tiny drop.

Besides the physical costs of having diabetes, there is a financial burden too. My insulin pump costs $8,000 and the infusion sites cost $15 each or about $1800 a year. I also need about 2-4 vials of insulin per month, and each vial costs around $130. I use around 10 strips a day and each one costs $1 each, and cost at least $3650 a year. These costs do not even count my doctor visits, sugar tablets and juice boxes. Without even having to replace my insulin pump, the costs are around $10,000 per year without insurance.  Add another $8,000 for a pump that has to be replaced every 4 years.

Diabetes is very tricky game. You are always guessing at things and how your body will react. You try to anticipate what will happen a few hours down the road and make good decisions about what is the best for you.  You have to control diabetes if you don’t want it to control you.

Will was 17 months old when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and has always taken his diabetes in a stride. He is in the 8th grade at McCallie School where he applies himself to learning, with a GPA of 3.8. He has successfully competed in wrestling for 5 years; loves horseback riding; and wants to be a Doctor someday.  


Understanding Diabetes

Whenever you eat, your food is broken down into tiny nutrients by your digestive system. These nutrients provide the energy that is necessary for you to eat, breath, walk, move, or sleep. The primary form of energy that is found in food is called glucose or SUGAR. As your food is broken down, the sugar enters your bloodstream and travels to your body cells where it is used for fuel; or to your liver where it is stored for future use. In order for your body to use sugar it needs the help of a hormone called INSULIN that unlocks the doors of your body cells.

Sugar provides energy to your body much like a battery provides energy for a flashlight. If you think of sugar as tiny little batteries floating around in your blood stream, you know that something has to happen before the batteries can produce light. . . The batteries have to make a connection with the light bulb. Insulin helps sugar make that connection.

When you have diabetes your pancreas does not make enough insulin, and your body is unable to properly utilize the glucose, or sugar that is in your food. 

If you have Type 1 Diabetes your pancreas makes little if any insulin and you require insulin replacement.

If you have Type 2 Diabetes your pancreas starts out by making a LOT of insulin, but the cells in your body do not respond to insulin in the way they should and you become resistant to the insulin. Like corrosion at the connection between a battery and the light bulb of your flashlight, insulin resistance does not allow energy to get into your body cells, and you require a lot more insulin then would otherwise be necessary. Over time, your pancreas eventually wears out from trying to make so much insulin . . . and unless you are able to make lifestyle changes that decrease your resistance to insulin, you end up needing to take insulin by injection.

For an “Inside Look” at diabetes . . . take a visual tour, complements of Diabetes Forecast. 

Inside Diabetes: A Visual Guide   


Tool Box


Diabetes Go-To-Guide: American Diabetes Association & Merck

Better Diabetes Care: National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP)

Diabetes: NIH Medline Plus

Diabetes Act Now: Simple Answers, Easy Actions

Diabetes Public Health Resource: CDC

National Diabetes Information Clearing House: NDIC

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease: NIDDK

dLife: For Your Diabetes Life

TCOYD: Taking Control of Your Diabetes

UpToDate: for Patients

ACCU-CHEK® Inner Circle: Roche

Changing Diabetes: Novo

Journey for Control: Merck

Life & Diabetes: Abbott Diabetes

Lilly Diabetes: Lilly



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