Diabetes doesn’t stop teen advocate

He’ll lead youth support group

By Lindsey Erdody Published:

When Michael McIver was 10 years old, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – the rarer and more serious form of the disease.

But he didn’t let it change things. The same day he came home from the hospital, he went out and played football.

Now, 16-year-old Michael has kept that attitude and wants to encourage other type 1 diabetics to do the same.

Starting Oct. 4, he’ll be leading meetings every other month for type 1 diabetics to discuss issues, get advice and learn about available resources.

He will meet with children and teenagers, while his mother, Robin McIver, will see the parents.

“We came up with this as a way to help people the way we were helped in the beginning,” Michael said.

“When you’re first diagnosed, there’s a lot of questions and there’s really not a whole lot of resources to answer those questions.”

Some topics the group will discuss include dealing with schools, dining at restaurants, counting carbohydrates, using insulin pumps and facing the challenges of high and low blood sugar.

Michael said he and his mom contacted the Franklin County Health Department when he came up with the idea in January, and employees there were actually looking for more type 1 resources.

Currently, the department only has a support group for type 2 diabetes since type 2 is much more common.

Michael said because the two types of diabetes are very different, many discussions will only be relevant to type 1.

“Type 1 and type 2 diabetes (are) really almost bad names because they’re almost totally different,” Michael said.

Despite having an uncommon disease, he said he doesn’t feel like he’s changed his life.

“I don’t change my diet because I’m a diabetic. I just eat healthier because that’s what you’re supposed to do,” Michael said. “You have to embrace it and just accept it.”

Robin said Michael took control from the start and has been very positive.

“He’s embraced this so much better than we have,” she said.

He kept playing soccer after being diagnosed, played football at Franklin County High School and still competes in archery.

Michael said one thing that has made diabetes easy to deal with is the insulin pump he switched to when he was 12. The pump allows him to input his blood sugar level and carbohydrate intake and provides him with the right amount of insulin.

“It just looks like an iPod and you stick it in your pocket and go,” he said. “People think you’re playing on your phone instead of getting insulin.”

The pump is one item that will be discussed in the meetings, but he said he doesn’t want to pressure anyone into it.

“We don’t want to push people to that, but we do encourage that,” Michael said. “It’s really a life changing device.”

Robin said she and the parents will discuss any issues they’re having and she’ll answer questions. She said she wants people to feel like they have support.

“It was so isolating when it happened,” she said. “When someone tells you your child has something chronic that’s never going to go away, it’s very difficult to just grasp all that and understand all that at one time.”

She said one of the most important things is for parents to know their kids are still normal.

“You never want to make them feel abnormal,” she said. “It’s important for them to know they’re not held back for any reason because they’re a type 1.”

Michael said at first it felt like he would be held back from things, but after awhile, it became the new normal. Now nothing is particularly difficult.

“The hardest thing for him is talking us into a Camaro,” Robin said with a laugh. “That’s all that’s on his mind. He doesn’t even know he’s type 1.”

The support group for diabetics with type 1 meets from 6-7 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Franklin County Health Department. For more information, call 545-3888 or email dt1kentucky@gmail.com. On Twitter, follow @DT1KY and on Facebook, search DT1KY.

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