38 Years of Progress
“I didn’t have an endocrinologist until I moved to Lexington. It really opened up my eyes to all the advances with diabetes. I’ve had my pump since 1997, and I can’t even imagine not having it. I worked with the diabetes educators at UK HealthCare in the 1990s. Since then, they’re always there if I need them, which has been so helpful. I know I can contact the diabetes educator or get an appointment anytime.”
When Jill Blake was growing up in the 1980s, Type 1 diabetes wasn’t talked about often. But after Jill started experiencing severe fatigue, excess thirst, weight loss and excess hunger, her mom made an appointment with her family doctor, who sent her to a hospital in Tennessee. When she arrived at the hospital, she was officially diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She was eleven years old.
“I stayed there a full week for nothing but education. They taught me how to give myself the insulin injections and check my urine for glucose—there weren’t finger sticks available where I was, only urine checks back then. I even practiced giving injections on the nurses, which is crazy to think about because today, that would never happen. They also had nutritionists and physical therapists meet with my mother and me, and the big message was: you can live a normal life with this. They told us, ‘Don’t be a sick person. Do your activities, do cheerleading. Do everything, but just make these adjustments, and always balance the exercise, eating and medication together. It is a new and different thing that you have to do, but you still can live a normal, good life.’”
In the 38 years since her diagnosis, Jill has proven her doctors right over and over again. Over those four decades, diabetes care has progressed, allowing her to stay healthy and live the life she wanted. She eventually became a nurse, moving to Lexington and working at UK HealthCare. At every step, and with every new technology, she worked with diabetes educators for resources and guidance.
“The main reason I got the insulin pump was when my husband and I decided we wanted to try to have kids, and I knew how important having good control of your blood glucose was for a healthy pregnancy. So I worked with the diabetes educator at UK to help me through that.”
Most recently, Jill needed to switch to a new insulin pump—right around the time that COVID-19 hit in March of 2020. While Jill was unable to meet in person with her doctor and educators at Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center, she was still able to receive the care she needed through UK TeleCare.
“We immediately started doing the UK TeleCare appointments and Sheri Setser-Legg, the diabetes educator, had her demonstration pump. She was able to hold it up on the screen and I would hold mine up so she could show me what the screen should look like. It was just like we were sitting next to each other, and that was so comforting. She also showed me how to upload my pump data and my finger stick data into the computer. That way it would generate a report, which they can access from their end to help me make the adjustments. It’s just amazing.”
As the pandemic continues, Jill is grateful for the ability to continue communicating with her healthcare providers at UK HealthCare without risking exposure to COVID-19—especially since the virus may pose higher risks for people with diabetes.
“Even as a nurse, if you get a new piece of medical equipment—it’s kind of scary, everything can be different and new. Having diabetes, or any chronic illness, is having an extra sense of anxiety with COVID-19 going on. It just feels so good to know you can easily meet face to face with somebody if you feel you need that for guidance, or someone to help you work through an issue. It’s just a really good system, and I’m so glad they put it in place.”