DOVER — Blake Hermance may have type 1 diabetes but his diagnosis isn’t holding him back. Blake was diagnosed in February 2014 after he and his parents noticed some strange symptoms.
“What we really noticed was how thirsty he was. He could drink half a case of water bottles just between dinner and bedtime,” Chris Hermance, Blake’s dad said.
Excessive thirst is one of the tell-tale signs of diabetes.
As a precaution, Blake’s mom took him to have some blood tests done and a week later were given the results. Blake’s mom came to pick him up at school to break the news to him.
“It was really hard at first but I think within just a couple minutes I accepted it and knew I needed to get serious and do whatever it takes to get better,” the 14-year-old Polytech freshman said.
They went home and picked up some overnight clothes and activities because he had to be admitted to the hospital based off the test results.
When he was taken to Kent General, the staff tested his blood sugar and it came back at 600+, higher than the meter could measure. For reference, a healthy blood sugar level is below 200 and Blake tries to keep his between 100 and 150 now.
His sugar was so high because the body breaks down sugars and starches we eat into glucose, which it uses for energy, but with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces no insulin, a hormone needed to get that glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. So without insulin, sugar stays in the blood instead of being pushed to the cells.
Blake was taken to A.I. duPont by ambulance because his levels were so high and stayed for more than a week to get his levels down to the normal range while he was trained how to manage his diabetes on his own.
“The nurses taught me everything over while I was there. They acted like they had known me forever and it was better to learn from them than from a book,” Blake said. “If it was from a book, I probably would have fallen asleep.”
He was very active in his treatment, even in the early stages giving himself his very first shot while his parents watched and did plenty of learning about type 1 diabetes.
“It’s a family thing now and everyone has been so supportive,” Mr. Hermance said. “People usually aren’t supportive when they lack education but everyone learned about what was going on and it’s made things a lot easier.
The biggest issue for Blake, which has now become second nature, is paying close attention to the food he eats.
“I’ve always been pretty healthy but now I have to look at the serving sizes and nutrition facts, especially the grams of carbs,” he said.
“The truth is, now he eats the way everyone should,” Mr. Hermance said.
Blake divides the grams of carbs by 22 to determine how many units of insulin he needs.
He also uses technology to help out, keeping track of his diabetes using the My Fitness Pal app and an app that uses bluetooth to sync his meter with his phone. In addition to technology, the Hermance’s 18-month-old dog Matilda is sensitive to blood sugar and will nudge Blake if she senses his sugar is getting low.
“One of the worst parts is when other people think they know better than me and try to tell me what I should and shouldn’t eat because I know what I’m doing,” Blake said. “I know that if I take care of my body, it will take care of me.”
Even with type 1 diabetes, Blake can stick to the lifestyle he’s used to but there has been one major addition — a bag he carries all the time with all his diabetes supplies like a testing kit, insulin and an emergency needle that can cut through any fabric and into muscle on his thigh if he needs an emergency injection. Luckily, he’s never had to use it.
He still plays basketball and lacrosse and doesn’t have any problems, he is just careful to fuel his body properly before getting active.
All his coaches were informed after his diagnosis what signs to look for if his blood sugar gets too low and what to do if they need to step in to help.
He even plays the snare drum in the Dover Police & Fire Pipes and Drums, a group of bagpipers and drummers.
“Since he’s been diagnosed, a surprising amount of people we know have come to me and said they have diabetes too, and it’s just like wow, I never knew these people had diabetes because they’re living normal lives,” Mr. Hermance said.
There are only a handful of things that diabetes will stop Blake from doing and unfortunately joining the military is on the list.
“I always wanted to join the Air Force, but I can’t be in action and tell the guys to hold on while I check my blood sugar,” he said. “So that was hard at first.”
But Blake is now considering following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a police officer. Mr. Hermance works for the Dover Police Department.
“Growing up my dad has always come home with really cool stories to tell so one day, I’ll be able to get out there and make some stories of my own,” he said.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month and Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen made the proclamation at the Oct. 26 city council meeting and Blake accepted it and made a short speech about living with diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes, the kind Blake has only makes up for about 10 percent on all diabetes cases, the other being type 2.
Unlike type 1 where the body doesn’t produce insulin, with type 2, the body doesn’t use insulin properly called insulin resistance.
Dr. Kristine Parker, a Bayhealth endocrinologist out of Milford said type 2 diabetes can be caused by multiple factors but obesity is thought to be the primary cause so the number of type 2 diabetes continues to grow as the obesity epidemic continues.
According to the American Diabetes Association diabetes affects nearly 30 million Americans –– nearly 10 percent of the population. And 86 million Americans are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
“Eat Well, America” is the ADA’s theme this November and with the theme, the organization is promoting following a healthy diet because type 2 diabetes can be managed through both diet and exercise but many patients need medication or an insulin pump to regulate their blood glucose levels.
“We never say someone is cured of diabetes even if they get their levels around normal without medication,” Dr. Parker said. “Normal levels can only be maintained if they stick with their lifestyle changes but if they revert back to what they were doing before, a patient could be back in the same or an even worse situation than they started in.”
She added that if diabetes is well controlled and the patient sticks to a strict maintenance plan, the disorder will not effect their lifespan but when diabetes is left uncontrolled, it can lead to a host of other illnesses that can reduce both lifespan and quality of life.
If diabetes isn’t well controlled, patients are more likely to suffer additional health complications. According to the ADA, diabetes nearly doubles the risk for heart attack and for death from heart disease, making weight loss, a healthy diet and regular exercise especially important. It is the leading cause of kidney failure and new cases of blindness among working-age adults.
The rate of amputation for people with diabetes is 10 times higher than for people without diabetes and roughly 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage that can result in pain in the feet or hands, slowed digestion, sexual dysfunction and other nerve problems.
Symptoms are excess thirst, frequent urination, and constant hunger. If you or a loved one is exhibiting one or more symptoms, a physician can test for diabetes with simple blood tests.
For more information about diabetes, visit diabetes.org.