CHOC patient Sabrina was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was just a 2-year-old. Over the years, Sabrina has learned how to manage more of her medical care with the support of her mother and family.
Thanks to her CHOC endocrinology team and the Adolescent to Adult Bridge (A2B) Program, Sabrina was able the learn the skills to manage her diabetes treatment as she prepared to go off to college. The following video shows how the A2B team partnered with Sabrina and her family to help make her transition successful.
Now, a few years later, Sabrina is thriving in college as she prepares for her next big transition — life after college and adult healthcare.
In this Q&A, Sabrina shares about her daily life as a college student with type 1 diabetes and what she looks forward to in the future.
Tell us about where you are going to college, what you are studying and what activities you are involved in.
I attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). I am a biology major and a global health minor on the pre-med track. Currently, I volunteer at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center as a Care Extender.
Some clubs that I am involved in on campus are The Diabetes Link and Asian Pacific Health Corps. In my free time, I enjoy going to concerts, finding new spots for food and drinks and exploring the LA area.
How are things going now that you’re in college? What was the biggest adjustment?
Things are going really well now that I am in college. Classes and extracurricular activities keep me busy, but I am enjoying it all! My biggest adjustment to college was figuring out how to balance my social life with academics. I was really scared of going to college where I did not have the same support system that I had grown up with.
The first few months of college felt like I was at a long-term summer camp, so everything felt new and exciting. I joined so many organizations that I had meetings every night and was running all around campus. This also showed in my glucose levels as they dropped low all the time.
I think after I realized that I was spreading myself out too thin, so I chose to focus on the organizations that I was most passionate about and stuck with them. This helped me feel less overwhelmed and I was able to have set times for studying.
How did talking about healthcare transition help prepare you for being more independent?
Talking about the healthcare transition helped prepare me for being more independent because I had a better idea of what responsibilities I had to pick up. The thought of leaving home where I had my medicine easily accessible and my mom always there was intimidating.
Since I was diagnosed when I was young, I never realized how much of an impact my type 1 diabetes had on things like driving and going to college. However, as I reached the age for these things to be done, the transition team always helped me every step of the way.
Therefore, by the time I had to take things on like ordering supplies or talking to my insurance provider, I had already been mentally prepared for what things would look like.
The most helpful thing that I learned talking with the A2B team was that I should take small steps outside of my bubble. I am someone who can become stuck in my bubble when I feel comfortable and have created a routine. However, my CHOC care team encouraged me to try taking a small step outside of my bubble, encouraging me to join The Diabetes Link (previously known as College Diabetes Network) where I was able to meet a great group of type 1 diabetics.
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My team knew that I had become so focused on school and clubs that I had put my social life on the back burner and encouraged me to take care of myself and create my own support system at school. While at school, there would be times when life got busy, and I was not managing my diabetes to the best of my ability. The team gave me great recommendations on how to reintegrate my diabetes management with my daily life and routine.
What does a typical day look like balancing college classes and activities with your diabetes management?
A day in my life looks like waking up at 9 a.m. and getting ready for the day. During this time, I will check my insulin pump and see if I need to change my site that day and make sure that I have enough insulin to last me until after my classes. I try to have a small breakfast whether that is a few pieces of fruit or a protein bar to make sure that I am fueled for the day and that I will not go low on my walk to class.
I try to plan my day a bit before heading to class at 9:30 a.m. Depending on what day of the week and what my schedule looks like, I might have an hour gap between classes so during this time, I would head over to our on-campus dining to grab lunch. Since it is set up to be restaurant style, right after I order my meal, I try to pre-bolus for my food. After getting my food and finishing my meal, I walk over to my next class or head to the library if I still have time.
My classes end around 4 or 5 p.m. and l head back to my room. Depending on if I have a club meeting and what time the meeting is, I will change my backpack to a lighter bag and head back to campus for the meeting. I would grab dinner before or after my meetings. On days without meetings, I would go to the gym to get some exercise. Then, I usually end the day with studying and self-care before getting ready for bed and sleeping.
What advice would you give to other young adults with chronic conditions who are thinking about going to college?
Going to college and living with a chronic condition may be frightening, but it is completely possible and there are many people who are there to support you. Make sure to apply for the accommodations that you need such as housing or academic support as soon as possible and advocate for yourself when you are in the meeting to determine your needs.
The advisor will most likely give you the baseline accommodations but do not be afraid to reschedule an appointment and tell them that you need the accommodation to be modified.
Don’t be afraid to get involved in clubs or organizations that revolve around your chronic condition. It is a great way to meet other people with your chronic condition and create a support system to get advice from or emergency supplies if needed. It is also interesting to hear about other people’s experiences with chronic conditions.
How do you feel about the next step of graduating from college and your pediatric CHOC doctors? Anything you are looking forward to?
Honestly, I am quite scared about graduating from college. I feel like I had just fully adjusted to life in Los Angeles and am not ready for what my life after college will be like. College is another bubble that I have gotten accustomed to and now I have to take the small steps to prepare myself for after college.
However, I am very excited for new opportunities and getting more involved in what I am passionate about. It is daunting, but I am hopeful that things will work out! I am definitely sad about graduating from my pediatric CHOC doctor and team as I have grown up seeing the team every few months.
The CHOC team has been the best medical team that I have ever had, and I am not sure if I would ever get the same level of care and understanding from any of my future healthcare providers. However, Jennifer has shown me the options I have for looking for future doctors which makes the process of transitioning less intimidating.
The CHOC endocrinology team and the A2B team have been preparing me throughout the past several years and have equipped me with skills and knowledge that I know will come in handy throughout my life with type 1 diabetes as an adult.
CHOC’s Adolescent to Adult Bridge Program (A2B) guides youths and young adults as they transition to adult care. This program helps adolescents prepare to make healthcare decisions and see an adult doctor.