Categorized | News

Diabetes technology normalizes life for active teen


Ragan Strong plays hard and works hard as an Arlington teen — balancing school, competitive cheerleading and life in general with close monitoring of her celiac disease and Type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the body does not produce insulin on its own, so people with the disease must closely monitor their blood glucose levels, count carbohydrates and take insulin when needed.

Her diabetes in particular requires meticulous 24/7 management. So she always wears a sensor from the Dexcom G6, a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system, and an insulin delivery pump from the Omnipod Insulin Management System. The CGM means she doesn’t have to use lancets to prick her fingers and check her blood sugar levels multiple times throughout the day, and it also sends her alerts when her blood sugar is too low or high. The Omnipod means she doesn’t have to use syringes for her insulin doses.

“It helps a lot,” Ragan said. “My Dexcom helps a lot. I don’t prick as much. Because my mom can also help follow my blood sugar because she has the ‘follow’ app. And my insulin pump, I don’t have to give myself shots.”

It’s been just under two years since Ragan learned she had Type 1 diabetes. Doctors diagnosed her on Jan. 31, 2017, when she was prepping for the UCA Cheer Nationals. She went into diabetic ketoacidosis and had to be rushed to the ICU via ambulance.

Ragan recalled that before this medical emergency, she had been feeling tired for the previous two weeks, guzzling water, trying to feed an insatiable appetite and constantly running to the bathroom. She also had lost 15 percent of her body weight sometime during or before that period.

In Ragan’s case, her quick diagnosis and treatment meant she bounced back and just nine days later was cheering alongside her teammates. She loves the sport of cheering and serves her team as a “flyer,” meaning she places at the top of her cheer team’s pyramid at games and then “flies” down for a safe landing.

She has since regained the lost weight and taken charge of her health issues.

Her mother said, “I’m so proud of her. I’ve always nicknamed her the strongest chick I know. Because she literally has handled everything with such grace and strength, way more than me.”

Ragan carefully watches her diet, level of activity, stress and anxiety because all are factors that can affect Type 1 diabetes. With help from medical science, she lives a normal teen life.

“I can still do everything before, I can still cheer and go hang out with my friends, but I just have to watch what my blood sugar’s doing,” she said.

Ragan has always wanted to be a nurse, and now she plans to be an endocrinology nurse some day, teaching classes of newly diagnosed people.

Mrs. Strong sleeps with her phone in the bed so her daughter’s blood sugar alerts will wake her. She’s worried about Ragan not having her as a safety net when she eventually lives on her own, but she appreciates the help of modern technology.

About the Dexcom G6, the mother said, “Most days her blood glucose chart can still look like jagged mountains going up and down, but at least with the CGM we can see what it’s doing to know when she does maybe need more insulin.”

When people ask Ragan’s mother if she has any advice for Type 1 diabetics, she urges them to get on a CGM as soon as possible. “It was a game changer for us, because before she had that to monitor the blood sugar, we would just put her to bed at night, check her finger and assume she was good. And now I can see how many times it has dropped low during the night that she needs to be treated. You have a lot more peace of mind.”

Ragan Strong, who has already received bids to Nationals and World cheer competitions, doesn’t let Type 1 diabetes crimp her style. A continuous glucose monitoring system helps her monitor her blood sugar levels. The tiny sensor she wears daily is just visible at the bottom hem of her shirt in this team photo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *