Living with diabetes at 15 – a patient’s perspective

A diabetes diagnosis can be a lot for anyone to handle, much less a young man balancing the demands of school, sports and a social life. Here, a 15-year-old Trust patient named Nadir El Tahir explains how he copes with his condition with the help of his family, his basketball coach, his school and his clinical nurse specialist, Roshni Vadher.

My name is Nadir and I’m 15 years old. I’ve been a patient with the children’s diabetes service at St Mary’s Hospital since I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 12. I still remember the date because it was my sister’s birthday.

In the last few years, I’ve learned how difficult it can be to live with diabetes. I've had to miss lessons, either because of low or high blood sugars, and I have to take my own personal time to catch up with all my work and so on. Sometimes my blood sugar has an impact on my emotions. I might get angry at a family member and it's not intentional, but they wouldn't understand that because they're not really in my position.

There was a point in my life where I was shaking and getting migraines on a daily basis and it’s definitely been a struggle, but obviously I have to go through it. I can’t just say, ‘Oh no, I give up’ because I can’t give up on my life.

The only person that really understands how I feel is my dad, because he's diabetic as well.
My whole family helps me a lot, and my basketball coach Mr Johnson helps, too. When I talk to Mr Johnson, we don’t just discuss basketball. We also talk about my blood sugar, my health, my grades. He’s definitely inspired me – he’s not just a normal coach, he’s like a life coach. 

Help from St Mary’s

Ever since I was diagnosed I’ve been working with Roshni Vadher, a children’s diabetes nurse specialist at St Mary’s Hospital. She understands all of the challenges of having diabetes as a young person and is helping me learn how to manage my condition. She sends email updates to the nurse at my school so the nurse knows what to do if my blood sugar is high or low. That way, I can receive support from the school as well as from the hospital.

I don’t get nervous about coming to hospital for my appointments, but sometimes it can be a bit irritating. I would rather spend time at home watching TV, going on my phone, playing Xbox, et cetera. Obviously, the hospital is not like a luxurious home, but I do get a lot of very nice company from the nurses. They understand that the position I'm in is not so pleasant and they make sure I enjoy my stay in the hospital as much as possible.

They always ask me 'How was your day?' and things like that. Every time they make those kinds of comment it makes me smile and it feels good that people care enough to try and have a positive impact on my day.

Roshni has started talking to me a little bit about the transition from paediatric to adult services. Right now, my family and Roshni help me keep track of the impact food and exercises have on my blood sugar. Sometimes Roshni asks me to keep food diaries to track my condition, and I also meet other young people who have diabetes. It helps to know that other people understand this struggle, too.

"I don't want diabetes to control how I want to live my life in the future. I'm not going to let my health stand in the way of what I want to do."

Now that I’m 15, I need to start taking more responsibility for my condition. The constant support I'm getting is good preparation for the future, because I'm not going to have everyone holding my hand when I’m older. I need to be independent. It starts from step one, and step one is getting the support from the nurses, my friends, my family and so on. The fact that I can get that support now means that when I turn 16, and I get different sorts of care, I’ll be able to handle myself even when the nurses aren't around.

I have to make sure I get into the right mind-set to be able to go out into the world and show that I'm capable of taking care of my diabetes, of being in control of it and not letting it control me.

It can be tough to manage my condition, but I don’t give up, and I think other young people with similar conditions should keep going, too. Be ambitious. You can still have the same dreams as any other person, whether they have a condition or not.

I don't want diabetes to control how I live my life in the future. I'm not going to let my health stand in the way of what I want to do. I need to take care of my health but at the same time, strive for greatness. 

Find out more about our children's diabetes service
Find out more about our adult diabetes service

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