USU student survives school and
the constant prick of a needle
By Melanie Fenn
December 12, 2008 | Needles, seizures and blood samples
are part of Aubrey Barker Hartley's everyday life. As
a type 1 diabetic Hartley is different than other USU
Hartley is a senior majoring in music education. Next
year she starts her student teaching as a middle school
choir teacher. She does many things that normal 21-year-olds
do. She studies hard, likes to hang out with friends
and got married last summer to her high school sweetheart.
At age 10 Hartley discovered a condition that changed
her life. During her fifth-grade year she said she was
sick with what her mother thought to be the stomach
flu. She had no energy, was losing weight and had to
constantly urinate. One day her mother found her in
the bathtub with all her rubs showing, her stomach sunken
and her hair falling out. The doctor did some simple
tests and wanted to send her home. Sandi Barker, Hartley's
mother, told the doctor, "I'm not going to take this
skeleton home." After a urine test and a rush to Children's
Primary Hospital Hartley was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Hartley said the doctor told her if they had waited
six more hours she would have slipped into a coma.
The American Diabetes Association said type 1 diabetes
is when the body does not produce enough insulin, a
hormone that converts food into energy needed for life.
The association said type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed
in children and young adults. To go on with life diabetics
must prick themselves around four times a day in order
to get a blood sample that they then test to see their
blood sugar level. They then give themselves shots of
insulin or have an insulin pump which pumps insulin
in the body through a tub that has been injected into
the body. The pump can be worn in most activities but
the injection site must be changed every three days.
The association said diabetics must count carbohydrates
and often also take pills for complications related
to diabetes as well as carry other shots and food in
case of emergency.
Hartley said her life was changed forever after her
diagnosis. Elementary school was especially hard. Several
times a day she would travel to the nurse's office where
she would be pricked and her blood tested then the nurse
would give her an insulin shot. Many of her peers and
teachers treated her differently said Hartley.
In P.E. teachers would stop her during activities
and say, "Don't you think that is enough for you?" Hartley
said in sixth grade a group of girls found her diabetes
disgusting and made it known whenever they saw her by
teasing and rude remarks.
Other peers thought she was weird because she had to
prick herself until she bleed and give herself shots
so they shrunk away from her said Hartley. As Hartley
learned to take care of herself and as new technologies
for diabetics have developed she said life got easier.
Hartley still has to tell each college professor her
condition at the beginning of every semester.
College is an expensive endeavor for any student.
By adding the burden of diabetes Hartley said sometimes
getting through each week is hard. Because Hartley has
no insurance she has to pay for all medical supplies
related to her condition. She said she spends each week
$50 on test strips, $100 on insulin, $35 on pump supplies,
$4 on batteries for her pump, plus extra glucose tablets,
inject able glucagon and extra food for a total of over
$200 a week. In a year Hartley spends over $10,000 on
the diabetes supplies she needs to live.
Even after doing everything right scary life threatening
experiences can occur. Hartley recalls one when she
was 11 years old. She was sleeping over at a cousin's
house and they had stayed up late giggling like girls
do. She then fell into a deep sleep. While asleep her
blood sugar dropped and hypoglycemia set in. Hartley
said her body usually wakes her up when her blood sugar
drops but because she was so tired it didn't that time.
She then went into a seizure and went unconscious. No
one knows how long she seizured but an older cousin
eventually found her and called the paramedics. The
complications resulted in her left side going numb.
Eventually she got all of her feeling back.
Diabetes has life threatening complications when not
taken care of properly and even then sometimes the complications
can still arise. The American Diabetes Association said
complications include heart disease, stroke, high blood
pressure, blindness, kidney disease, nervous system
disease, amputations, dental disease, and complications
of pregnancy, sexual dysfunction, coma, and death. Usually
these occur as the diabetic gets older and doesn't take
care of them self.
According to the association 8 percent of the U.S.
population has diabetes. If that holds true for Utah
State over 1,800 students have diabetes at the main
and extension campuses. Type 1 diabetes accounts for
5 percent to 10 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes
said the association. The more common is type 2 which
is more common in overweight older people. Although
type 2 is preventable there is no known way to prevent
type 1 diabetes said the association.