Type 1 diabetes is a debilitating condition, and often sees victims struggling to cope with its social implications. As R. Sujatha writes, timely and ample support makes a world of difference.

Twelve-year-old Sneha Suresh was in bed, reading aloud to herself from Ambulimama, oblivious of the people around her. The little girl, a picture of innocence, is being treated for complications resulting from Type 1 diabetes. There are others like her, teenagers and young married women and men. Some of them have a tragic story to tell. Some have dropped out of work, while others have been abandoned by their spouses.

Sneha’s condition was diagnosed last year and she was put on insulin. She will return to school after this stint of hospitalisation, but there are at least three youngsters who have dropped out of school or work, who arrive at the hospital’s outpatient ward every week, say doctors in the diabetology department.

“These people would not have eaten a full meal at the appropriate time after taking insulin. Or, they would have forgotten to take a midday snack and gone into hypoglycaemia,” says Meenakshi Bajaj, a nutrition therapist in whose care these patients are. Many times, as they have had the condition for long, they fail to recognise the symptoms. And so, their condition deteriorates.

Pariksha’s six-month-old child is in the care of its grandmother. Her husband knew of Pariksha’s condition, but as he did not reveal it to his family, the 25-year-old did not get to eat her meals on time, resulting in chronic problems. Besides, as she moved to Courtallam after her marriage, insulin supply was also irregular. Pariksha’s marriage is now in shambles even as she is recovering from her hypoglycaemia-induced malnutrition. “When I have not had insulin for a day, I wake up in pain. Now I am feeling better,” said a gaunt Pariksha, who has studied up to class X.

P. Punithan, 28, from Choolaimedu gave up his job as painter as he was afraid he would faint at his workplace. He has been put on a continuous glucose monitoring system to evaluate his condition. Doctors will monitor his blood sugar levels for three or four days and later, nutrition therapists will prepare a diet chart for him. He will be monitored periodically to prevent complications.

C.R. Anand Moses, head of the diabetology department, tells me that once, a class X student got into trouble when fellow students found him injecting himself with insulin in the toilet. “They thought he was on drugs. I had to go to the school and explain to the teachers about his condition,” he said. If diabetics carried a card informing people about their status, it would help doctors and paramedics get them medical help when needed, he added.

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