Gina Latimer, 12, has had type 1 diabetes since she was 8. She’s also a superfish, winning swimming races and competing in triathlons all over Perth! Here’s her story:
I was diagnosed on New Year’s Eve, and my family spent the New Year in intensive care at Princess Margaret Hospital.
All I remember is that I felt very tired and confused because I didn’t know what diabetes was. I know that even though Mum and Dad were very supportive and calm, underneath they were freaking out.
I love to swim. I swim five days a week for an hour and a half to two hours after school. Learning how to manage diabetes for swimming has been complicated but I know what I’m doing now.
I’m on an insulin pump and because it isn’t waterproof, I have to take it off while I’m swimming. After school, I eat and I reduce my bolus insulin for the meal so my glucose level goes a bit high before training. I normally eat rice and pasta and protein - I’m not really a low carb person. Then I take my pump off while I swim, and when I finish I put it back on and give a correction dose of insulin to replace the basal I didn’t get while I was swimming. Mum usually helps.
If I get stressed at training, my sugar level goes up. But if I’m calm and I just keep on training my level will go down. Sometimes I have to get out of the pool because I feel low. I hate sitting out to treat hypos, it’s really annoying – I just want to get back in and keep swimming.
I’m kinda chill with everything and a bit shy, I still need more confidence to talk about diabetes with other people. But my swimming coach needed help to understand type 1, so Mum helped and we gave him a lot of information. We told him that sometimes my sugar level will go low and those times I have to get out of the pool and eat sugar. We also told him that if I was acting upset, it’s probably because I’m low – I get emotional when I’m low.
I use a Continuous Glucose Monitor. Right now I’m wearing the new Dexcom G6. It’s really cool - it’s a lot easier that the old one because I don’t need to calibrate at all and it’s really accurate. It’s also much smaller and thinner which I like.
I was in two relays at the State Championships recently – we got two silver medals and I beat my PB in every single event I did. My events are the 100m freestyle, the 50m freestyle, the 50m breaststroke, the medley relay, the 100 individual medley, and the 4x50 freestyle relay. That’s six events, which is a lot. They were split so I did three events each day.
When I race, my levels go really high because I’m very very stressed, When I first got the pump my levels would go super high before races, up to 17mmol/L, and I couldn’t swim fast because high levels make me feel so tired. Now, I have a small bolus before I go in the water, and I only go up to about 11mmol/L. At that level, it’s still a bit high but I feel ok and I can swim fast. We fix my level after my race.
If I was talking to another kid about swimming, I would just say do it! Give it a try and don’t be scared! Diabetes will be ok, and so will you.