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Today's word on journalism

January 13, 2009


"I get the feeling that the 24-hour news networks are like the bus in the movie 'Speed.' If they stop talking for a second, they think they'll blow up."

--Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, 2008 (Thanks to alert WORDster Ross Martin)

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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 students.

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.


Copyright 1997-2009 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-3292
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