Talking Type 1: Ruben Hernandez

Think type 1 diabetes is just for kids? Think again.

Because it was thought to only strike children and teens, type 1 was known as juvenile diabetes for a long time. The truth is a growing number of adults are being diagnosed with it in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond.

All week long, we will present stories from adults who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, describing the emotions and frustrations that came with their experiences. Each person defines success in different ways, but they all celebrate the triumphs that have helped them reach their goal of living well with diabetes.

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Ruben and his wife, Maelyn

Ruben and his wife, Maelyn

Name: Ruben Hernandez
Age: 28 (diagnosed at age 27)
Location: Fort Drum, N.Y.

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on Jan. 1, 2013.

It all began after I went home to Texas with my daughter for the Christmas holiday season. I was taking a two-week vacation before deploying back to Afghanistan (I am a sergeant in the U.S. Army). I had volunteered without consulting with my wife, but it was something I really wanted to do.

On the drive back to New York, I noticed that I had to stop about every 30 to 45 minutes to use the bathroom. I ignored it, thinking that it was due to the high amount of fluids I was drinking. Once I got home on Dec. 30, I was really fatigued and weak. My eyesight was blurry and I was getting up in the middle of the night constantly to use the bathroom. I did not know the signs of diabetes, so I kept on ignoring it, thinking I was just exhausted from the drive.

The following day it got worse, as I found myself having to watch television with both my contacts and glasses on. But I went about my day as usual. By Jan. 1, my wife had had enough and took me to the hospital. I told them my symptoms and my blood was drawn and tested.

That’s when I got the bad news. My blood glucose level was at 849 mg/dl, with an A1C around 12.9 percent. I had diabetes.

The first thing I asked, without hesitation, was “Can I still deploy, doctor?” He answered me, “No, you’re not going anywhere.” I was devastated and didn’t know how to take it; I looked at my wife and just shook my head. I spent the night at the hospital and was released the following day after receiving a good amount of information on diabetes and its risks.

I notified my superiors of what had happened and was told we would talk about it when I got back to work. On my first day back I found out from the military doctors that I would be released from service without the option to change jobs or continue service—this after I served for 10 years.

I did everything I could to show Army officials in black and white that I am more than capable of still serving in the military. But even once my diabetes was under control, with an A1C of 5.84 percent, I was not able to change their decision.

It took me a while to admit to myself that it was time for a new beginning. Now I have a more positive look on life. I keep improving myself in every way possible, and now I am just waiting to start a new career as a police officer. I took the civil service exam earlier this month, and if all goes well I will be relocating to the Dallas, Texas, area. I will also continue to pursue my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

This has been devastating for me, but now I’m ready to move on.

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