67 years with type 1

WRITTEN BY: Rick Fusillo

Editor’s Note: Rick has been living with Type 1 diabetes for 67 years. He recently went to a Slipstream – a weekend camp for adults with Type 1 diabetes – and the experience had a profound effect on him, prompting some reflection on his life with T1D.

Hard times

When I was diagnosed in 1952, the only management tools that existed were glass syringes, stainless steel needles, pork and beef insulin, and a Clinitest urine testing kit. As a result, diabetes management was difficult. With this history, I make a point of telling newly diagnosed T1Ds, “You are not lucky to have diabetes, but you are very lucky to have it today with all the incredible tools we have access to.” Without effective tools, I had numerous hypoglycemic episodes causing my parents to have to take me to the local hospital’s ER in an unconscious state. I reflect back on those times every time my Dexcom warns me that my blood sugar has reached my low threshold of 70 – those difficult, dangerous days are no more.

As an early adult, in my 20s, I still had low blood sugar episodes. Driving home one day, I had a low that caused me to drive past my home and unknowingly park my car across the street from a hospital. In an unconscious state, the police found me and tried to question me to no avail. I apparently tried to fight them, was handcuffed and taken to the hospital’s psych ward because they thought I was on drugs. Luckily, I had a brief moment of clarity and told the doctor I had diabetes. After drawing blood, I was informed that my blood sugar was 7! The doctor told me I could have caused myself brain damage with such a low reading.

Right now

Let me now take you to today: I just returned home from my first Slipstream in California. After signing up, I was so excited to participate in this new adventure. It was an incredible experience. To share this with my brothers and sisters with Type 1 was powerful for me and hearing other experiences was so cool. I connected with two other seniors who have had their diabetes for 57 years and 55 years respectively. The three of us have had a total of 179 years of Type 1 experience… Unbelievable! I view this as more proof that those with diabetes are able to live long, productive lives. I had some folks tell me I was an inspiration to them which was a gift.

Living beyond Type 1 is something I have been able to do despite my 67 years with diabetes. I don’t allow my T1D to prevent me from doing anything and everything I choose to do. I lived beyond at the Slipstream by climbing the wall and ringing the bell – I climbed the ropes and logs successfully to reach the top, and it was very difficult but I did it.

I also learned a great deal just by participating in the Slipstream. Never knowing of the existence of the two powerful organizations, Beyond Type 1 and Connected in Motion, I learned about their missions related to Type 1; I now hope to join in their missions and programs.

Keeping on

Some of the other adventures I have done in an effort to live beyond include jumping out of a plane at 15,000 feet and experiencing the most exhilarating feeling I have ever had. I have hiked the Grand Canyon many times, never permitting Type 1 to hamper me or my goals. There is nothing in this world I would or could not do because of my T1D. Believe it or not, there is a piece of me that believes I am as healthy as I am BECAUSE I have diabetes. It has forced me to live a healthier life than I might otherwise not have been capable of.

I live beyond every day as I get up each morning and go for my jog. As long as I have my T1D tools on hand I can and will do ANYTHING I choose to do.

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This is my kind of inspiration! Don’t be a VICTIM! Own it and live.

I see this as true in my life as well. while I have “only” had diabetes for 36 years, I don’t think I would have adopted many of the healthy habits that diabetes forced me to adopt. Things like better nutrition, improved daily exercise, and an inquisitiveness about health in general that I don’t think I would have invested the same level of interest and energy had it nor been for the rude diabetes appearance in my life at the age of 30.

Many of these healthier habits I didn’t take up until the last seven years; I wish I had started them earlier. That being said, I have enjoyed many tangible benefits from those health changes and those health improvements keep me motivated to practice them daily.

I think a great case can be made that diabetes can actually improve your health when compared to the likely health trajectory you would have ridden if diabetes didn’t show up in your life.

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I followed the Slipstreams link in this post and discovered that we’re now at the end of their calendar of events for 2019. @Mila, do you know if BT1 plans any 2020 Slipstream events? I am interested if they are.