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Ohio State organization aims to help students with diabetes unite

Students gather for a College Diabetes Network meeting March 3 at Cunz Hall. Credit: Robert Scarpinito / Lantern reporter

Students gather for a College Diabetes Network meeting March 3 at Cunz Hall. Credit: Robert Scarpinito / Lantern reporter

At least eight times a day, Aamna Dosani, a fourth-year in public affairs, pricks her fingertips with a needle to get a drop of her blood, which she uses to measure her blood sugar levels. She has had to constantly monitor her blood sugar since age 9, when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Twelve years later, Dosani decided to start an Ohio State chapter of the College Diabetes Network, a national nonprofit organization that aims to improve and empower the lives of people with diabetes, Dosani said.

“(Type 1 diabetes) is an everyday thing,  you can’t turn it off,” Dosani said. “It’s 24/7.”

The College Diabetes Network is meant to give people with diabetes a place where they can meet others who can help them with a part of their lives that most can not, and Dosani said she wants to place an emphasis on people with Type 1 diabetes.

“While growing up with it, I never really had any friends who had Type 1, so I couldn’t really talk about it with anyone my age,” Dosani said. But after bonding with another woman who had Type 1 in college, Dosani said she found it was helpful to have someone to connect with.

Type 1 diabetes is rarer than Type 2 diabetes, and only 10 percent of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes, said Kathleen Wyne, associate professor of clinical Internal Medicine.

Formerly known as juvenile diabetes, Type 1 diabetes is the complete absence of insulin production, but Type 2 diabetes makes the body more resistant to insulin, causing blood sugar levels to rise, Wyne said.

Type 1 diabetes commonly is diagnosed in people under the age of 18, but it is still possible for people to show signs after that age. Guy Smalley, the adviser for the College Diabetes Network and an academic adviser for the College of Public Health, was diagnosed at the age of 22.

“I was in college, and suddenly I had the classic symptoms of huge thirst, my vision was starting to get blurry, I had a weird apple-like taste in my mouth and I was losing a whole bunch of weight,” Smalley said. “This was in a matter of four or five days.”

The organization, which aims to help people like Smalley and Dosani share their stories, is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. It is currently in the process of becoming an official student organization and has 14 members, Dosani said. The organization accepts people directly and indirectly affected by Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, such as people who know friends or family members with the disease.

“This is a really great way to serve students who may have some challenges when they come here to OSU,” Smalley said.

Dosani said she wants the organization to provide support for incoming freshmen who might have never independently dealt with having diabetes. She said navigating social situations in college might take some getting used to for younger students with diabetes, but the organization aims to help give them advice.

“It was really hard figuring out how drinking works. It was really hard dating and dealing with letting people know that I have Type 1,” Dosani said. “There were so many times when I was so overwhelmed with it in my freshman year.”

To combat Type 1 diabetes, people need more insulin, usually in the form of shots or a continuous pump. Dosani uses the shots and usually injects herself with insulin at least 10 times a day.

“I think I’m in pretty good control of it, but it just requires a lot. You wouldn’t think some things would affect it, but even when you get stressed out, stress makes your blood sugar high,” Dosani said. “It takes a little bit of getting used to.”

Treatment has gotten increasingly more effective since Smalley was diagnosed with diabetes more than 40 years ago, he said. He uses an insulin pump to regulate his blood sugar rather than insulin shots.

“When it’s controlled, the person can do what anybody else can do. There are no limits,” Smalley said. “I’ve talked to some who told me 20 years ago, there’s no way they could’ve been a pilot or flight attendant, but now they can because of the advances in treatment.”

The organization is working on setting up a panel for high school students with diabetes who have questions about going into college and maintaining treatment while establishing themselves in a new setting.

The College Diabetes Network meets every other Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Cunz Hall, room 150. The next meeting will be on March 24.

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