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Jessica & Lauren, Seattle, WA

First diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1995.

jessica-lauren

When Lauren was four, she got very sick, and we took her to the doctor three times with flu-like symptoms, losing 10 lbs and going from 48 lbs to 38 lbs in three weeks, before he diagnosed her with type 1 Diabetes. He said to me, “Lauren has type 1 diabetes. You may be more comfortable driving her to Children’s Hospital than dealing with the sirens of a 911 Aid truck, and you don’t have to run any red lights, but you need to take her there right now. Do not make any stops. I have called ahead to Children’s and they are expecting you. Go to the ER entrance.”

Thus began a new era in our family. Lauren had a blood sugar of over 650, and they said she would have died in another 2-3 days if we had not brought her in.

Of course we didn’t know this at the time, and thankfully, 65 years earlier Insulin had been discovered turning her death sentence from diabetes into something manageable though difficult. Difficult we could handle.

We learned that something in her body had mysteriously attacked her pancreas, killing the beta cells, rendering her body unable to convert food into energy. This is called Type 1 Diabetes, and is one of more than 80 autoimmune diseases that can attack our body parts causing various diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Lupus. Of course we didn’t know this at the time, and thankfully, 65 years earlier Insulin had been discovered turning her death sentence from diabetes into something manageable though difficult. Difficult we could handle. Chasing her around the house, pinning her down screaming to give her a shot is a rueful memory. Getting calls from her teachers while she was on an elementary school trip and she was becoming unresponsive still gives me chills. Today Lauren is 31, and I have never heard her complain about her finger pokes for blood tests, shots to deliver two types of insulin calculated in different amounts 4 times a day, forced eating, forced abstaining from food, emotional/mental/physical highs/lows, measuring/testing/recording/frights, and feeling terrible from the symptoms of type 1 diabetes that are a life-long plague.

Today diabetes is an old friend she would rather loose. On a pump instead of needles, she has learned to mimic the actions our pancreas does automatically without us having to worry about it. Our own pancreas is very smart and we need it to live. Now Lauren is very smart, but take away the insulin and she dies.

Together we came to learn that it is not unusual for people with one autoimmune disease to have multiple autoimmune diseases.

Together we came to learn that it is not unusual for people with one autoimmune disease to have multiple autoimmune diseases. When Lauren was 12 she developed Reynaud’s syndrome, where her hands and feet get very cold. It can be very serious, but it is not so serious as uncomfortable for her. At age 16 she developed alopecia, where something in her body mysteriously attacked her hair follicles causing her hair to fall out. She was a cheerleader with long blond curly hair. At age 18 she was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that inflames the joints making you stiff and causing pain. She called me during her third week as a freshman at Seattle University and said something was wrong, she couldn’t get out of bed. At age 23 Lauren was diagnosed with celiac disease, her 5th autoimmune disease, this one affecting the small intestine, and taking four painful years to diagnose.

At age six she spoke to 300 guests at the Nordstrom Beat the Bridge event to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. At age 25 she spoke to 900 guests of the Virginia Mason Dreambuilder Fundraiser for the Benaroya Research Institute to raise money for autoimmune disease research. Today, married and a mother to their 6-week-old baby, Lauren is a mental health therapist in Kirkland, WA, helping others and their families navigate the emotional impact of a health diagnosis or chronic illness. She gets it. http://www.laurenlippincott.com.