I’m Ryan Smolen. I’m 17 years old. Big brother to 2 brothers & 3 sisters, dual -enrolled junior, pursuing a degree in electrical engineering, avid fisherman, joker, and I love drumming & playing sax. My plan A was to be accepted into the Naval Academy to earn that engineering degree, so for my first 2 years of high school, I was climbing the ranks in NJROTC. I decided to change my path when I was told I definitely would not be permitted to serve in any branch of my great country’s military because I’m insulin dependent.
My Type 1 diabetes journey began in early May 2015 (I was 14 years old). I had a cold I couldn’t shake & I was tired more than usual (the symptoms I see in retrospect also included drinking a lot & peeing a lot, losing weight & being grumpy). I went to the doctor who noticed my 10 lb weight loss in 8 months & asked for a urine sample...which was the clue to check my blood sugar...IT WAS 370+!!! My parents brought me to, and stayed with me in, the hospital close-by for a week while I (& they) were taught how to care for, adapt a new diet regimen & maintain a child with Type 1 diabetes.
Some parts of my life changed in unexpected ways such as my hopes of being a Frogman, my limits in athletics- which I’m the boss at everything, seriously- my inability to gain & maintain weight, my ideas & habits about food & my sleep pattern. Even though I experienced blood sugar highs & lows while participating in marching band & competitions in NJROTC teams, I did not waiver in my commitment & dedication. I refuse to let T1d win! Much of my life, however, has remained the same: I’m determined not to let this pancreas failure define me!
I wear an insulin pump that is much more enjoyable than giving myself injections- like I did for the first year. This pump keeps up with me in all my activities & is remotely controlled so giving doses of life-saving insulin is easy. My equations are programmable for meals & also if I have to correct my blood sugar between food. The pump delivers insulin on a different rate schedule while I sleep too...crazy, right? I also wear a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) that transmits my “up & down” levels so I can see a pattern. It isn’t a replacement for a blood sugar monitor, but it does show my current bs # (gives a reading every 5 minutes). I have the option to share the info through the CGM’s platform so my mom keeps an eye on it too. It allows users to set alarms for highs & lows, which can be annoying. It’s a great tool to help me be aware & help me maintain better.
Nighttime is tough. I sleep pretty hard so I have slept through *blarring* alarms that were supposed to wake me up! I did wake up for my all-time lowest bs (praise & thanks to God): 23. That scared me & my mom. Although I woke up, walked into the living room & attempted to speak to her, the endocrinologist told us that I was actually having a small seizure. *PSA: people with Type1 can look & act fairly normal but be in serious distress. Please think about this if you ever observe a person in public*
I & my family have learned so much in 2.5 years but we certainly have more to learn. Since I will leave my parents home to begin my next phase of life soon, I’m doing all I can to learn to live with this disability (not my words, but reality is what it is). I have plans to be a husband & father some day. I’m working diligently to keep my A1C levels within the healthy range so I do not become a statistic (those are sad & eye-popping. If adolences who are diagnosed as teens do not learn to control their ##, they are usually dead by 26 years old).
Participating in this walk will enable our family to make much-needed connections with other families in the same boat. I know of fewer than 6 young people with Type1. I am looking forward to meeting others I can relate to, ask questions about being a college student with T1 & relaxing, knowing that if my # is low someone will have a rescue snack or juice box! The funds that are raised will be directly donated to the research foundations that are working best to find a cure & in the meantime, develop better technologies to make living with Type1 even better!
Thank you for reading this, your consideration in supporting me & most of all I would be very grateful for your prayers.
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