HEYWORTH — Using a lancet to prick his finger, Austin Lopez took the blood and measured his blood sugar level with the help of a glucose meter.
His blood sugar was high, so he adjusted the insulin dose he was receiving from his insulin pump.
He wears the pump — which gives him insulin continually — 24/7, taking it off only for showers or swimming.
Insulin is delivered from a reservoir in the pump — which is about the size of a cellphone — to Austin through a thin tube and needle inserted under the skin through his abdomen.
Where does Austin wear the pump? He lifted his shirt.
"It's on my spybelt," he said with a smile. The belt, which he wears around his abdomen, also has pouches for his glucose (blood sugar) meter, insulin cartridges and lancets.
Austin logged in a paper binder what he had eaten for lunch, the amount, the number of carbohydrates and his blood sugar level.
Does all this sound complicated? Imagine dealing with it at age 14.
That's Austin's age. He's been dealing with this — and more — since he was 9.
That's when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
"Diabetes doesn't limit you," Austin said last week in his rural Heyworth home, with his parents, Juan and Kara, on either side of him and as his brothers, Derek, 16, and Wyatt, 12, did homework in another room.
"You just have to learn to deal with it," Austin said.
With type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile diabetes, the body produces little to no insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy for daily life, according to the American Diabetes Association. Diabetics get insulin from injections or pumps.
Only 5 percent to 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1. Most diabetics have type 2, in which the body resists the effects of insulin or doesn't produce enough, according to Mayo Clinic. About 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.
Austin is the new face of type 1 diabetes in Central Illinois.
"He manages his type 1 diabetes very well, he has a good attitude and his family is very supportive," said Vanessa Wiseman of the American Diabetes Association's Greater Illinois Area.
"With type 1, you live with it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every holiday, every birthday," Wiseman said. "Even at a young age, Austin took it very seriously and quickly learned that he could still enjoy a snack but he needed to monitor his blood sugar."
"Austin has been a very robust and energetic kid all his life," Juan said.
But, five years ago, in August 2009, as he and his family were on their way to Michigan for a vacation on the beach, Austin became "incredibly thirsty."
"I'd get water, drink it and then I'd need more," Austin recalled.
"I remember the whole week still being thirsty. We'd be building sandcastles on the beach and every 10 minutes, I'd need to use the bathroom and get a drink."
"We realized something was wrong," Kara said. She and Juan recognized symptoms of diabetes but also knew that neither side of their family has a history of the disease.
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After vacation, his parents took Austin to see his pediatrician. His blood sugar level was high and his pediatrician figured Austin had diabetes. But, to be sure, the doctor referred Austin to a pediatric endocrinologist in Peoria.
The specialist confirmed that Austin had type 1 diabetes.
"It's a blow to have your kid diagnosed like that," Juan said. He and Kara were surprised because of the lack of family history and because the family has a healthful diet.
"At that time, I didn't understand the difference between type 1 and type 2," Kara said.
"I was 9 years old so I was just trying to figure out what diabetes was," Austin admitted. "I wasn't old enough to be panicked about it."
The family met with a doctor, nurse, dietitian and counselor at Children's Hospital of Illinois, Peoria, and they discussed living with diabetes.
One thing Kara learned is that she didn't have to adjust Austin's diet. But she did have to figure out carb counts for everything that Austin ate because carbs and blood sugar would have to be monitored.
"That made dinner time take longer," she said. "But he didn't have to change what he ate — as long as he gave himself insulin to balance it out."
And, yes, it was Austin giving himself insulin injections within a few days of his diagnosis.
"I gave myself insulin injections as soon as I could," Austin said. "I'm the kind of person who likes to do things myself."
He learned to check his blood sugar four times a day; write down what he ate, how much and the carb and blood sugar levels; and then give himself insulin as needed. For the first year, he used syringes, then switched to insulin pen injections and then in 2012 began using the pump.
"I didn't want to keep putting a needle in myself four times a day if I didn't have to," Austin said of his switch to the pump.
There's another advantage of the pump: "He used to give himself a long-lasting insulin and a short-acting insulin to balance the food he ate," Kara said. "Now that he has the pump, his pump delivers insulin all day long ... and the insulin he gives himself is to counteract the carbs he's eating."
Austin has eight spots where he can give himself insulin and switches spots every two days. The spots are his arms, the sides of his abdomen, the sides of his bottom and his thighs.
"I can still do anything that I want to do," he said. "I just have to calculate for it."
Austin, who is home schooled, enjoys acrobatics, playing piano, doing card tricks and computer graphics and animation.
Austin's maturity in living with type 1 diabetes has earned him the honor of being named youth ambassador by the diabetes association for Saturday's McLean County Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes at the Corn Crib in Normal.
"I feel kind of proud," Austin admitted.
"We were thrilled," Kara said. The Lopez family is raising money and will participate in the walk for the second year.
Austin hopes for a career in computer graphics. What about his life goal?
"I want to manage my diabetes," he said. "I want to live a long, healthy life. I want to show people that having diabetes doesn't limit you."