I had 14 years of diabetes management under my belt when I was a freshman political science student at American University. I prepared and thought about my transition to college for weeks. I had registered with my school’s Academic Support and Access Center for accommodations, scoped out the dining hall offerings, and had the nerve-wracking talk with my roommate about the Emergency Glucagon Pen.
Every diabetes patient is different, but for me, the hardest part of being at American were my blood sugar management and remembering to give insulin at mealtimes while balancing being a “regular college student.” But more than that, what seemed next to impossible was figuring out the logistics of managing my diabetes supplies. This meant calculating when I had to reorder supplies, how long it would take to be shipped, and how long it would take to process through my university's package system – not to mention any appeals of prior authorizations I would have to facilitate over and over despite years of demonstrating the medical necessity of the supplies that work for me. It’s like having a double major, one in political science and one in diabetes supplies management.
There were times when the diligence of remembering which suppliers, and which actual products and supplies I rely upon and needed to order, slipped away. There were times when – distracted by the blur of college life – I ran out of pump reservoirs and CGM sensors. How do you concentrate in class or your internship while your body is not fully functioning? How do you stress about your exam next week when you are busy stressing about missing tools you need to manage your chronic illness? Luckily for me, I could remedy the situation because I was still on my parent’s insurance, even if it required jumping through some hoops to get access to get to the products and supplies that work best for me.
However, that is not the fortunate reality for all college students, or all patients, with diabetes. Patients without access to the right mix of tools and supplies necessary to keep them alive face an even bigger burden than I did. College is hard enough, college with diabetes is even harder, but college with diabetes without access to the right tools and supplies indicated for your individual needs would be impossible.
Research shows that academic performance declines with out-of-range blood sugars. Without access to the right medications and supplies, as determined by a doctor and patient, not only are we making it harder for a student to thrive in their new environment, but we are making it harder for them to physically feel well. Every college student deserves to feel well, to put forth their best self in academic, social, and professional settings.
It is easy to feel defeated when you are surrounded by students performing at the best of their abilities. That’s especially true when you know if could just get access to your trusted insulin pump to spend more time in range, you too could feel that good, get those good grades, and land that prestigious internship. That is why comprehensive coverage for the diabetes equipment and supplies that work for each individual patient is vital, especially to college students.