New technology blesses the life of local Type 1 diabetic

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KIMBERLY, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Nov. 14 is World Diabetes Day, a day to share awareness about the disease that effects thousands of people worldwide, people like Erica Sommer.

Sommer is a registered nurse at St. Luke’s Magic Valley. She was only been 4 years old when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, but the date is ingrained in her memory.

“Oct. 23, 1984, I remember it to the day,” she said.

Because she was so young she said she doesn’t remember details from the day, but she can’t remember a time she wasn’t a diabetic.

“It’s all I know,” she said.

Living with the disease for 33 years, Sommer has heard all the common misconceptions, and she constantly has to explain to people the difference between the more common Type 2 diabetes and Type 1.

“I did not get it because I ate too much sugar, I did not get it because I was lazy and didn’t exercise, I didn’t get it because I was overweight,’ she said. “I got it because my body attacked itself.”

People diagnosed with T1D have what’s called a trigger, which causes the body to go on that attack. The body turns against the pancreas and the cells that produce insulin, which a nondiabetic body uses to regulate blood sugar levels.

“I don’t make any insulin whatsoever,” Sommer said. “So I rely on insulin through injections, or currently the pump to live every day of my life.”

Sommer recently became one of only 26 patients at St. Luke’s Magic Valley to be on a new version of a continuous loop system. The system combines a pump with a sensor to automatically give the correct amount of insulin based on blood sugar readings.

The pump isn’t all automatic, she still has to prick her finger and input the levels along with the calories she eats, but she said it makes managing the disease that little bit easier.

“The transmitter and the sensor read my blood sugar levels every five minutes through the interstitial fluid and send it to the pump and the pump makes adjustments based on what my blood sugar is doing at that time,’ she said.

When Sommer was diagnosed, her parents were told there was little chance she'd ever have children.

“Thirty plus years ago, research didn’t exist like it does today,” she said.

When she and her husband Brian decided to have children, she knew it would be an uphill battle.

“Lots of doctor’s appointment, lots of finger sticks, lots of insulin adjustments,” she said. “I had the OB doctor, maternal fetal medicine, endocrinology and retinal doctor.”

All together she said she saw eight or nine doctors just to have each of her babies.

“Luckily the team that I had all worked together and I made it through the pregnancy with very few complications,” she said.

Now the mother of two children under the age of 4, Sommer credits advancing technology and medicine for helping give her two "miracle babies."

“I call them our miracle babies, because without the technology I don’t think any of it would have happened,” she said. “It's just heartwarming to be able to have two children that I never knew I was going to be able to have. And have them and love them.”

Sommer is a registered nurse working at St. Luke’s Magic Valley. She said she encourages all parents to get the test done for T1D if they think there’s any chance their child has it.

“Unfortunately a lot of Type 1 is missed as the flu, and a lot of kids have died, because even health care providers don’t catch it,” she said.

She said T1D has a lot of symptoms, and not everyone shows all of them but some of the things to look for are, insatiable thirst, constant appetite without gaining weight, losing weight, a sweetness on the breath, sleeping a lot, going to the bathroom a lot and an attitude that’s out of the ordinary.

“It’s better to run the test and have a negative answer, than to not run the test and lose your child,” she said.

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