It was Carnival Monday in 2012 and Jean-Marc Rampersad was enjoying the T&T Carnival experience, being his usual then 17-year-old self.
But on Ash Wednesday, he was standing in his doctor’s office feeling extremely ill and having his blood tested.
Within a few days, the doctor’s office called asking Rampersad to come in with what sounded like an emergency.
The visit revealed a diabetes diagnosis.
“I was shocked but at the time it was hard to process everything,” Rampersad said in a telephone interview.
His mother, however, who accompanied him on the doctor’s visit was in shambles.
She had been caring for her mother, a type-2 diabetic and feared the good quality of life for her young son was now threatened with the diagnosis.
But before his diagnosis, Rampersad said, for some time he was experiencing several symptoms—non of which he ever imagined was linked to diabetes.
“I was experiencing weight loss, over the space of two-three months I had lost weight very quickly. I was also urinating a lot, feeling very thirsty and fatigued. Many times I was sleeping away in class,” related Rampersad.
The former student of Couva East Secondary School was hospitalised the same day of his diagnosis where he stayed for a week and was placed on fluids, while insulin was administered—the latter he came to know he would have to use for the rest of his life.
Subsequent tests also revealed Rampersad was in the category of type-1 diabetes, mostly found in young people.
Unlike the extreme care-free life Rampersad lived before, important alterations had to be made in order for him to successfully manage his diabetes.
Simple things like eating a meal can result in Rampersad’s blood sugar rising either too high or dropping too low. Effort must be put into keeping it regulated especially when taking a nap.
“If I am asleep and I wake up and my blood sugar is too low, I would have to either eat or drink something sweet to send the sugar levels back up before I go back to sleep, if this does not happen, I risk going into a diabetic coma,” Rampersad explained.
The 25-year-old has to administer insulin, four to six times a day.
“Normally I have to take the insulin 15 minutes before I eat. Sometimes after I eat, depending on how much I ate or what I ate, my sugar levels can either spike in which case I have to administer insulin or it can drop and I eat something sweet to carry it back up.”
Rampersad’s diet required serious modifying, however, he admitted he was not always disciplined with it.
He ensures though, he gets his fill of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Avoiding eating out as much as he could, was also an incorporated practice Rampersad had to adapt, as he said there aren’t many healthy options for persons living with diabetes when eating out.
Rampersad’s diagnosis may have required some lifestyle changes critical to his health, but the University of Trinidad and Tobago
(UTT) student who recently completed a degree in manufacturing and design engineering and is awaiting graduation said he never allowed his diagnosis to prevent him from being himself.
A lover of the outdoors, Rampersad remains active in sports and takes the occasional trips to the beach.
“I never thought for a second my life was over, “ he said.
He has learned a lot about diabetes management.
Rampersad said he wished he had the knowledge he has now, as he believed he could have helped his grandmother who passed three years after his diagnosis, of diabetes-related complications, live longer.