BSN student, Shelby Leya, plans to work as a pediatric nurse and diabetes educator upon graduation. Her goal is to educate children with diabetes on how to maintain healthy habits that make living with diabetes easier. Her desire to obtain a nursing degree and help newly diagnosed children originated from her own diagnosis with diabetes.
Shelby was 16 years old when she was diagnosed with type 1, diabetes. “It was a fluke that I was diagnosed,” she said. “It was a Friday morning and I was at school feeling sick.” She visited the hospital the same day and a routine check-up revealed traces of sugar in her urine, an indicative sign of diabetes. A blood test confirmed that her sugar levels were abnormal, reaching levels of more than 1000 mg/DL (in a person without diabetes this level is usually less than 100). The doctor had both good and bad news. The good news was that with her sugar levels she should have been in a coma, but somehow, wasn’t - he had never seen a number that high. The bad news was that she would have to live with the condition for the rest of her life.
Oblivious to the implications of what that meant exactly and with an intense fear of needles, Shelby found strong support from nurses that helped her cope with the challenges of living with diabetes. “The first week was traumatic,” she recalled. “The nurses at the hospital were so patient and understanding, they really helped me accepting my new condition and learning how to keep it under control.” Shelby relies on a continuous glucose monitoring device (CGM) that checks her blood sugar every five minutes and sends the information to her phone. This new technology allows her to not prick her finger multiple times a day like she had to do in the first year - a huge improvement for anyone living with type 1, diabetes.
When asked about how diabetes impacted her life, she admitted her own experience motivated her to apply to nursing school.
“Before the diagnosis I knew I was interested in the medical field, but not necessarily in nursing. I don’t think I would have chosen nursing without my experience with diabetes. It gave me a path in life that I had not even thought of before. It helped shape me into the nurse I am becoming today.”
-BSN Student, Shelby Leya
Shelby’s experiences working at a children’s summer camp for kids who have diabetes motivated her to continue helping people to live with diabetes. “Living with diabetes is mostly about eating properly, monitoring your blood sugar and taking good care of yourself. Focus on those concepts first and everything else will become much easier.”