Garrett: JDRF Insight

Jensen, Garrett

1. When were you diagnosed and with what type of diabetes?

I was diagnosed with type one diabetes (T1D) at age 13 (8th grade), October 3rd, 2005. I just celebrated my 10 year “Dia-versary” this month.

2. How are you contributing to finding a cure? Do you believe that one day we will have a cure?

I contribute to find a cure by participating in the annual JDRF One Walk to Cure Diabetes and act as a corporate committee member, as well as Stanford University research. Being in the Silicon Valley affords us incredible opportunity to delve into the technology space. Significant work and research is being done in the device realm especially for type one diabetics and Stanford is at the forefront. I am lucky enough to live close by and participate in their research as a “guinea pig.” I am fascinated by this space and am more than willing to do my part by working with Dr. Buckingham and other brilliant team members to find the cure. I am confident that we will have a cure or what I consider an “effective cure” (meaning the user/patient with T1D is removed from the equation in managing disease) in the next ten to fifteen years and I want to be first in line to get it.

3. Why JDRF?

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) has done and continues to do incredible work in type 1 diabetes research. JDRF’s collaborates with many partners to remove the impact of T1D from people’s lives until we achieve a world without T1D. They are exploring a dynamic research agenda from the artificial pancreas to beta cell encapsulation, and smart insulin. Through the One Walk to Cure Diabetes, thousands participate in walks all over the country and fundraise in teams. It is an electric environment that all diabetics should engage with. If you would like to support the Ernst & Young team, you may give and share here: www2.jdrf.org/goto/EYCarbAccounters

4. Has diabetes ever affected your schooling or career?

Diabetes has absolutely affected my schooling or career. It has opened me up to a field of study and cause that I otherwise would have little knowledge of. It has created strong connections with friends and organizations all over the country. It has empowered me to not limit myself in what I can accomplish. Of course there have been challenges and managing a disease that you never get a break from is frustrating at times, but with my support group, I know there is always someone to call, text, see, e-mail, or message. I am even trying to get on The Amazing Race with a diabetic friend of mine from Pennsylvania I met a decade ago at the Chris Dudley Basketball Camp for Kids with Diabetes in Oregon.

5. How do you handle having diabetes when you are traveling?

I have learned many tricks traveling with diabetes. Some lessons I learned the hard way. Here are a few of the key tricks I picked up traveling abroad from weeks in Turkey to moths in SE Asia. Using a Medtronic insulin pump, Dexcom CGM, and Bayer glucometer means I need A LOT of supplies.

  • Bring a backup insulin pump by calling your pump company. They are affordable and all you must do is return it after your trip is finished. In humid locations and seasons, like Vietnam during a monsoon, your buttons may stick afterwards.
  • Bring two to three times the amount of supplies you need. For example, 9 day trip is 3 site changes, so bring six to nine or more.
  • To save bag space, remove the sites and reservoirs from the box
  • Bring Lantus! If your site fails or your pump fails, you will need long acting insulin. Otherwise, you will be using Novolog/Humalog every few hours.
  • Bring a doctor’s note and prescription. The prescription is not valid abroad, but it can help. The note is helpful in airports and checking baggage.
  • Be willing to speak up! You should not have to pay for extra baggage because you have a chronic illness. Push back on this and do not check all of your diabetes supplies. Never check insulin.
  • Always have a syringe in all your bags and inside your glucometer. It will save you when you are away from your hotel/hostel.
  • Bring a backup glucometer. I forgot mine on a bus in Istanbul on my first day of a six week trip. Thankfully, I got a new one at a pharmacy nearby. They don’t have One Touch.
  • Always have a low snack or glucose tabs in a day pack. Going on adventures and hikes in nature is great, but food may not be nearby.
  • BRING PROTEIN BARS! Some trips estimated at a few hours turn into five, bring something hearty to keep you at a good blood sugar level.
  • In Spanish, insulin pump is bomba de insulina.
  • Check often. Abroad you will not know what you are eating all the time or the carbohydrate amounts.
  • You are no longer operating in a consistent schedule, so you may not be as sensitive to blood sugars and you will experience highs and lows on planes and in-country. Don’t worry.
  • Do not listen to roller coaster warnings for diabetics.
  • Do not let T1D limit your travel or experiences. We can do anything non-diabetics can; we are just a bit more prepared.

6. What is the best advice you would give to the family of a newly diagnosed person?

Engage the many resources around you. The best way I have done that is through camps for kids with type one diabetes, and more specifically the Chris Dudley Foundations (http://www.chrisdudley.org) Basketball Camp for Kids with Diabetes. I have been attending the week long camp in Vernonia, Oregon for the last decade: four years as a camper and six years as staff. The community that is created among 75 campers from all over the country, Canada, and even Turkey is incredible. Everyone understands each other and shares experiences enabling them to feel empowered to live active with diabetes. In fact, almost the entire staff were campers themselves. Chris Dudley, retired from the NBA after 16 successful years and studying at Yale, has had T1D since he was 16 years old.

Learn more about JDRF and Garrett by following his twitter @GarrettJens