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North Hall family deals with diabetes
Teens dont let disease rule their life
Carly Faulkner gets a reading for her blood sugar. - photo by Tom Reed

The alarm clock buzzes and a seventh-grade student groans and slides out of bed.

The day begins: Take a shower; eat breakfast and head to school.

It is a normal occurrence for an average middle school student.

And remember, it is not easy to will a 13-year-old out of bed in the morning when the day consists of classes and not much else.

Now, imagine this: Wake up; take your own blood, making sure your blood sugar is normal; eat breakfast; take insulin; and then head to school.

Repeat that throughout the day, on top of the stresses of a normal middle school day.

Welcome to the world of Carly Faulkner, a seventh-grader at North Hall Middle School, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was in third grade.

But she takes the extra responsibility in stride — it's all she's really known.

"When I first got it, it was kind of hard to deal with," Carly said while visiting the school nurse. "But I'm not going to let it hold me back."

She has been living it for the last five years, but the Faulkner family is no stranger to dealing with the disease that affects more than 100 students in Hall schools.

Her older brother, Caleb, a junior at North Hall High School, was diagnosed with the same disease when he was 4 years old. He knows the struggles students with the disease can go through on a daily basis all too well.

"Being young it was always a challenge because you didn't understand why this was happening to you," Caleb said. "It was kind of hard to explain to (peers) because you really didn't know what was going on yourself."

The older brother, a starting running back for the Trojan football team and member of the basketball team, has acted as a guide for his younger sister.

His experiences have showed Carly there is really no reason why a sense of normalcy can't be reached in everyday, teenage life.

"That relationship has been great," said Caleb. "Because when my sister was diagnosed it killed me. You don't want something like that to happen to someone you really love ... (But now) I can teacher her and tell her things because of my mistakes in dealing with this."

But for the both Faulkner children, dealing with the disease has become second nature, even when blood sugar levels fluctuate.

Diabetics experience different symptoms when their blood sugar levels drop or rise. Some begin to tremble, suffer anxiety, headaches, unusual hunger, abnormal sweating and more.

It can be hard to deal with, especially for teenagers going through physical changes already. And the danger is always present.

Fainting, seizures or worse are commonplace with diabetics.

"It's a scary situation because no matter how well you manage it, you still get those unexplainable dangers," said Jennifer Smallwood, school nurse at North Hall Middle, who the Faulkners say has been instrumental in regulating their children's disease. "Middle school is probably the worst because you get those changes in hormones."

Smallwood is no stranger to the disease, either. She has been a nurse at the middle school for five years. Each year, she helps facilitate diabetes with a handful of students.

"Diabetes has just become a way of life here for our teachers because we've had so many," Smallwood said.

"Probably, every teacher in this school has had a diabetic in their class at some point."

This year there are seven cases alone at North Hall Middle. At one point, Smallwood has had 10 diabetic students in her care.

"People don't know how it affects these students," Smallwood said. "It's difficult for them at times ... When (their blood sugar is low), you sympathize because they get so sick."

Even getting to school can be a challenge.

Caleb and Carly's mother, Julie Faulkner, says it can be frustrating at times having two diabetic children.

"Keeping up with everything is very difficult for them," Julie Faulkner said. "I'm constantly asking as we're walking out the door: ‘Do you have your meter?' Do you have your pump?' Is there insulin in the pumps?'

"It's challenging for them because they do have a little more responsibility that just your typical teenager would have."

Being a mother to diabetics can have its challenges, but Julie Faulkner says she and her husband have never let their children use the disease as a crutch.

"Yes, we stressed the importance of it and the seriousness of it, but we've always told them that no matter what, they're never to use that as an excuse," she said.

Although, that didn't really make it easier for her when Caleb was young.

Between kindergarten and second grade, Caleb would struggle with being at school.

"He would say to me every morning: ‘Are you sure nothing is going to happen to me today?'" Julie Faulkner said. "And it was very hard for me to say ‘yes' because I wasn't (sure). Something could happen. To reassure him everything was going to be OK was hard."

Diabetes is not new to the family. Carly and Caleb's grandfather and uncle both were diagnosed at a young age.

"Having prior knowledge made that easier," said Julie Faulkner.

But letting the constant challenges of diabetes stifle everyday life is something the two students refuse to do.

"My parents have always told me, ‘Caleb, you can be anything you want to be, you just have to put your mind and your heart to it,'" said Caleb. "That's just what I've lived by. I'm not going to let something that I was diagnosed with stop me from being who I want to be."

The perspective has carried down to Carly.

"You can't let it control you," she said. "You just have to deal with it because it's going to stay with you the rest of your life."


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