No Longer Hiding Her Type 1 Diabetes

A college student with Type 1 diabetes decided to use a final project to come out about her condition. In a documentary uploaded to YouTube, Raeanna Harward describes how she wouldn’t tell even her closest friends that she had Type 1. Instead, she would hide it by taking insulin before guests arrived for dinner and check her blood sugar levels in the bathroom.

“I was scared that [my friends] would think that I brought it all on myself, that I was one of those people you read about that’s just eaten too much sugar, costing the NHS billions,” she says in the video. (The NHS is the National Health System in the UK.)

The video matter-of-factly describes how perilously close Howard comes to experiencing a medical emergency every day. In fact, she nearly died with her initial diagnosis. She was 10 when she came home from a school trip with an undefined illness. Twice, her mother, Claire, took her to see doctors, but the doctors failed to diagnose her with Type 1 diabetes. Instead, Claire borrowed a meter from a neighbor to test Raeanna’s blood sugar levels. Raeanna’s levels were so high that the meter couldn’t deliver a reading, and her parents rushed her to the hospital.

“The next thing we were told was that she was very very poorly, and that she had diabetes, and that they were doing everything they could for her,” Claire says. “And the next few hours would be critical.”

When Raeanna’s parents were allowed to take her home, the reality of life with Type 1 diabetes set in for the family. Her father, Darren, described prepping Raeanna for the first insulin injection.

“Raeanna asked me, ‘Is it going to hurt, Daddy?’ and ‘Can you show me how it’s done?’ And I remember standing there for about five minutes pointing empty syringes into my stomach and my legs and my bottom to show that it doesn’t hurt,” Darren says. “And it did hurt.”

The video also gives a frank account of the highs and lows of blood sugar control. At one point, Raeanna is put on metformin to counter possible insulin resistance, but she finds that she must then contend with high blood sugar levels. At another point, she shakily deals with a nighttime bout of hypoglycemia.

“A small carton of orange juice at one-thirty in the morning saves my life,” she says.

The video concludes with Harward and several others declaring that they have Type 1 diabetes. In a message exchange on Facebook, Harward asked Insulin Nation to share this video for others who feel uncomfortable discussing their Type 1 diabetes.

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Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.

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