by Kim Leighton
I rarely sleep through the night. I wake up in a panic, constantly checking my insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor terrified my blood sugar levels are either too high or too low – either could send me into a dangerous area. If my blood sugars are too high for a long period of time, I can start spilling ketones in my urine and end up in the hospital. If my blood sugars are too low, I have to muster up the strength to get out of bed and find some juice and quick carbs, after tossing a few glucose tablets down my throat. Both of these conditions leave me feeling physically exhausted on top of the multiple times each night I wake up simply due to fear that I may never wake up again.
I am 37 years old and I have been living with Type 1 Diabetes since I was 3 years old. There is no break from diabetes; you can’t take a day off, you can’t even take an hour off. If you do, your blood sugars will spiral out of control, your body will reject any normalcy you are desperately seeking, and you only do more damage to your health, your body and your emotional sense of well-being. It’s a cruel, heartless disease that doesn’t care one bit about the people it impacts.
The cost of living with this chronic illness can feel debilitating in many cases on top of the physical and emotional toll people living with diabetes feel every day. I am fortunate to have insurance through my employer and a regular paycheck. However, the financial burden of this disease is overwhelming – between insulin, test strips, insulin pump supplies, continuous glucose monitor supplies, treatments from complications, and doctor visits.
The rising cost of insulin is terrifying. Recent reports state that over the last eight years, insulin has skyrocketed between 200 and 400 percent depending on the type of insulin used. At present, my insulin is affordable to me because of my insurance coverage; however, I hear stories of other people parsing out their regimented doses, simply not taking insulin when it’s necessary and/or choosing between insulin and food because they cannot afford their life-saving medication.
I was recently hospitalized due to diabetic complications from being sick. I was in the ER for approximately 6 hours. It wasn’t the first time, and it wasn’t the worst, but it scared me. I learned while I was in the ER, that day was referred to as “Diabetic Day” because in the 6 hours I was in the ER, I was one of 12 diabetics being treated. While it is cold and flu season, and that was the reason I was there – I have to wonder, how many of those other individuals were there because they simply could not afford the price of their care, and more specifically the price of their insulin – and therefore their health deteriorated to a point that they ended up in the emergency room. I certainly don’t want that to happen to me or anyone else living with Type 1 Diabetes. However, with the recent repeal of the ACA which was a huge benefit to people living with diabetes, which is classified as a pre-existing condition, and a life-long illness for so many of us; where do we go when we can no longer afford to live? What choice are we supposed to make, when we are given two options: food and the medication that saves our life?
Something has to be done to address the growing disparity between soaring insulin prices and the burden it puts on people like me to make life-altering decisions. I implore Senator Tester and Senator Daines to act now. Please join me in contacting their office and asking them to address this critical issue. Otherwise diabetics in Montana will pay the ultimate price.