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Overcoming Fears: A Father With Type 1 Diabetes

Falsely diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at 27, diabetes dad and type 1 dad [1] blogger, Gary opens up about being a father and how flying vintage war planes helped him overcome his fears of managing type 1 diabetes.

Q. Can you start by sharing your diagnosis story?

A. At the age of 27, I was mistakenly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by a general physician. He put me on a diet and exercise regimen, without insulin. I had never been overweight and had exercised since middle school. I continued to lose weight, and showed all of the symptoms of having type 1 diabetes. Two years after my initial diagnosis, after a visit with my own general physician, I was admitted to the hospital for one week, put on insulin, and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I weighed 115 pounds on a 5’10” frame. I was told I was about a week away from organ failure.

Q. What made you decide to go on an insulin pump?

A. I started pumping with the MiniMed 507 for the convenience and to help stabilize my blood glucose. In the hospital after one too many hypoglycemic events, I started to rethink my career and life plans, and decided I wanted to go to graduate school and major in education. That was when I decided to switch from multiple daily injections (MDI) to an insulin pump. I now pump with the Revel.

Q. How does using an insulin pump play a role in managing your diabetes?

A. The insulin pump has allowed me to better manage my diabetes and have better control over my blood glucose to help minimize hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. The Bolus Wizard [2] feature is great, measuring and calculating my meal bolus insulin.

Q. You’re a father of a two-year old. How has being a dad changed your diabetes management routine or how you think about diabetes management?

A. Being a father has not changed my diabetes management as much as it has given me more inspiration to enhance my longevity. Being a father has inspired me to always try to be there for my son and be the best father I can be; having someone dependent on me, rather me being dependent on others. Having type 1 diabetes, I have to make sure I take care of myself so I can care for my son and avoid putting him in danger. In the world of diabetes, especially type 1, changes can occur in seconds, and I want to be there for my child as long as I can.

Q. How has living with diabetes changed the way you raise your child?

A. Living with diabetes has changed the way I raise my child by making me closely examine how I can be healthier and a role model, in both having a proper balanced diet and exercise. Before I was focused specifically on carbohydrate intake, and now, I am much more focused on my overall nutrition.

Q. One of your hobbies is flying. Can you tell us how you got into flying?

A. As I adjusted to my new life starting a new job and career, I had some fears and factors to deal with. Although I had recently completed graduate school and had added extra certifications, I felt I lacked confidence to deal with my diabetes management. My biggest problem was fear of the unknown, and I believed the best way to deal with that fear was to face other fears often involved when we seek out new endeavors and interests. A case in point was flying. As a history teacher, with a focus on World War II, I had a special interest in Naval and Army Air Corps aviation of that time period. I wound down my graduate studies, I took a trip to visit several aviation museums and experience a part of history I spent my life learning about. I’ve always enjoyed flying, yet also had fears, realizing the inherent dangers and risks. I faced these fears as calculated risks, which helped me face my fear of having brittle type 1 diabetes. I believe a good deal of the problems we face are based on fears that we can overcome if we act rationally and intelligently.

Q. How do you prepare your diabetes when flying? How is it different from a normal day without flying?

A. When I fly, I make sure my insulin pump and all of my diabetes supplies (blood glucose (BG) meter, strips, and snacks) are secure and easily accessible, which is generally what I do on a normal day. However, on a day of flying, different adaptations would be made. When flying, I always plan for the unexpected, and make contingency plans. I make sure my pump and diabetes supplies are not in the way of the parachute (if I had to use it) and seat belt straps, but also secure to where they wouldn’t come loose when the plane was inverted. I always inform the instructor I might have to check my BG during flight.

Q. What do you find most helpful in managing your diabetes while flying?

A. The ease of accessing my pump, and the ease of accessing its controls and features were most helpful in managing my diabetes while flying. The pump’s easy to read and easy to navigate screen helped immeasurably.


– Medtronic Diabetes insulin infusion pumps, continuous glucose monitoring systems and associated components are limited to sale by or on the order of a physician and should only be used under the direction of a healthcare professional familiar with the risks associated with the use of these systems.

– Successful operation of the insulin infusion pumps and/or continuous glucose monitoring systems requires adequate vision and hearing to recognize alerts and alarms.

Medtronic Diabetes Insulin Infusion Pumps

– Insulin pump therapy is not recommended for individuals who are unable or unwilling to perform a minimum of four blood glucose tests per day.

– Insulin pumps use rapid-acting insulin. If your insulin delivery is interrupted for any reason, you must be prepared to replace the missed insulin immediately.

For more information, please visit: MedtronicDiabetes.com/isi.