Diabetic students get support

Diabetes Partners, a support group for Butler University students with diabetes, recently accepted an offer to become part of a nationwide group called Students with Diabetes.

Maria Fletcher, a physician at Butler’s Health and Recreation Complex, started Diabetes Partners three year ago after attending an annual College Health Association meeting. The event discussed the difficulties students with chronic illnesses have when adjusting to college.

Nicole Johnson founded the national program Students with Diabetes after she won the Miss America title in 1999.

When she found out she had diabetes in 1993, her doctors told her to drop out of college because she could never be successful, according to the Students with Diabetes website.

Johnson was able to graduate college due to her determination, but she was aware of the lack of resources for diabetic students on her campus, Fletcher said.

Fletcher said she leads the group using her medical and personal knowledge of diabetes to advise students.

There are two other group advisers. Allen Antworth, from the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, answers students’ questions regarding medication for their diabetes.

Antworth said he looks forward to helping students understand how to receive, store and take their medications safely at college.

Nancy Zlatkin, a doctoral psychology intern, helps students in an emotional capacity as the other adviser.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have the resources from the pharmacy department and the counseling department,” Fletcher said. “With this support, we feel like we can provide a partnership with our students with diabetes. I wanted it that way because I know diabetic students have needs that aren’t just medical.”

The group meets once a week for an hour. Students can bring up any questions or concerns they may have.

Fletcher said she aims to foster a safe environment where students can freely discuss challenges they face with diabetes.

The goal of Diabetes Partners is not to specifically monitor students’ blood sugar control. Instead, Fletcher said, it has a more holistic approach to diabetes management.

“We focus more on the management of stress,” Fletcher said. “When you’re under chronic stress, your catecholamines go up. When they go up, your blood sugar goes up. So your diabetes just can’t be under control when you’re under chronic stress.”

The group discusses ways to maximize fitness and nutrition to help keep students’ diabetes under control and offers strategies for relaxation.

John Gregg, a junior who has been diabetic since he was a freshman in high school, said the best way for him to deal with the stress of managing his illness at school is to talk to friends and family.

His friends at school know how to react in case of an emergency, he said.

“One of the challenges for me has been making people aware that I’m diabetic and what to do if I pass out,” Gregg said. “Some guys take it as a joke, and some guys don’t, so I have to explain the seriousness of it.

“If I pass out, I could die.”

Gregg said he values talking to his diabetic friends, and Diabetes Partners offers the chance to create a network of these people.

Diabetes Partners works to create a support system for students living with the illness. Now that the group is affiliated with Students with Diabetes, Fletcher said she hopes it can be even more effective and have stronger resources for diabetic Butler students.

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