Chloe Bentick, 21, has lived with type 1 diabetes since her diagnosis aged 4 years old. She’s not let it stop her from pursuing her dream job of becoming a builder. Find out more about her experience of growing up with and living with the condition.
Type 1 diabetes diagnosis
Tell me about your type 1 diabetes diagnosis.
As a child I never drank a lot, but one day I decided to drink lots of lemonade. This made me need to keep running for a wee but also made me keep asking for another drink! My dad knew about diabetes because my Nan has type 2, and my mum had been studying it for her degree, so they knew the warning signs.
I was sent straight to West Suffolk children’s ward, and medical staff confirmed I have type 1 diabetes. The doctors praised my parents for noticing the signs, and said it was lucky that I hadn’t fallen into a coma from being too high.
What are your earliest memories of managing type 1?
My earliest memories of diabetes were when I was in primary school. Due to my insulin set-up, back then I couldn’t have sweets or chocolate and had to have set meals and snacks. I remember thinking “am I going to spend my whole life being the odd one out?” I never went to sleepovers because I was scared that if I went too high or low my friends’ parents wouldn’t know what to do. Luckily, a few years later, my insulin set-up changed and I was able to eat anything as long as I had insulin.
How do your parents, family or friends support you?
My friends and family have always been really supportive. My parents used to take time off work to come to hospital appointments. They would wake up numerous times during the night when my blood sugars were low. They’d also come into school on a daily basis to check my blood sugars and administer my insulin. Mum and Dad separated when I was young but have continued to work as a team to keep me alive and well. They’ve spent their lives looking out for me and I can’t thank them enough!
Memories of growing up with type 1 diabetes
What implications has type 1 had on your life so far?
The only medical implication that I have had so far is background eye retinopathy. But luckily I only have the first stage which is reversible, so I’m not too worried!
What has been the hardest part of your type 1 diabetes journey so far?
I have two memories that really stand out.
Once, when I was 7, my blood sugars dropped so low that I became unconscious and began fitting. My dad tried rubbing Glucogel on my gums but nothing happened. He then used an emergency Glucagen Hypokit on me, while my mum phoned the ambulance. I started to come around after this, so luckily I didn’t have to go to hospital. But I still remember the look of shock and fear on my parents’ faces. It was horrible. It was the scariest experience with type 1 diabetes and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy!
The second hardest part of my journey was a period of about 2 years, from ages 7-9, when I kept having lows through the night but not waking up like I should. My mum had to wake me up 3 or 4 times a night to ensure I ate and drank, and at that stage I didn’t know how I was going to cope in the future.
What have you learnt about managing your type 1 diabetes since you were diagnosed?
I have learnt a lot since being diagnosed. At first, I was on a fixed regimen to manage my type 1. I needed to eat a certain amount of food and have a specific number of injections each day, with no snacking. After a few years, treatments became more tailored. I was then able to eat what I wanted when I wanted, as long as I carb counted and injected appropriately. It was like winning the lottery!
Pursuing her dream job as a builder
What advice would you give to someone who has just been diagnosed with type 1 about how to stay positive about achieving their dreams in the future?
The main thing is to not give up! At the start, the new rules and ways of life are horrible, but it gets so much easier. Take each day as it comes. I can honestly say that type 1 diabetes does not stop me living my life!
What is it like managing type 1 diabetes during your job as a builder? Do your colleagues know what to do if you have a hypo? What’s your hypo treat while working?
Living with type 1 diabetes and being a builder is usually absolutely fine unless a hot day comes along!
It doesn’t stop me from working or doing anything different to my colleagues. When it is hot I need to reduce my insulin, but sometimes I can still have the odd low. I have extra snacks and a sugary drink on me at all times! My go-to snack at work if I’m low is a banana or a couple of chocolate digestives with a 150ml can of Coke.
If I do have a low then I’ll treat it and have a little sit down until I’m okay again.
My stepdad is the site manager and has made everyone aware of what to look out for if I’m going too low or too high. They all know what to do if anything serious happens, such as going unconscious or into DKA. They’re all very understanding and I’ve never had a problem at work regarding my type 1 diabetes.
Do you use any type 1 diabetes technology?
The only piece of technology that I use is the Accu Chek Aviva Expert Meter which works out my insulin for my carb counting.
How has lockdown affected managing type 1?
During lockdown I’ve been lucky enough to continue work. I have been able to work by myself and have even had access to my own toilet on site! Nothing has really changed in my day to day life. That being said, I haven’t felt like I have wanted to risk going to the shops.
What are your goals next?
My next goal is to continue my building work, I love it so much! I would also like to become more involved with the type 1 diabetes community. I have a lot of knowledge about living with type 1, having had it for nearly 17 years. I feel that I could help a lot of people if they are struggling or if they have just been diagnosed.