Tonawanda News

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April 19, 2014

UB's D-Link helps teens deal with diabetes

Tonawanda News — AMHERST — Adolescence is stressful enough, but going through it with a chronic disease that requires multiple daily injections and finger pricks, as well as a fair amount of mental math, is asking a lot of the average teen.

Many teens are dealing with the disease. In Western New York, 100 new cases of Type 1 diabetes are diagnosed on average every year.

Some are benefiting from D-Link, a support group for Type 1 diabetic teens that was founded in 2006, by students in the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The disease can be very isolating, says Jim Schuler, a UB Honors College senior and a Newfane native who will start medical school at UB in September.

Schuler, who has participated in triathlons and calls himself “an endurance sports enthusiast,” doesn’t mince words about going through adolescence with diabetes. “It sucks, it can be grinding, and it doesn’t go away.”

Even family members can’t relate to a diabetic the way that others who have the disease can, he said.

“I could tell a relative that my blood sugar was through the roof this morning, but they don’t really know what that means. But if I tell someone who has diabetes, they know exactly what it means, physically. That’s what D-Link offers,” Schuler said. “It lets you know there are other people out there who have gone through it and who can help you through it, so your isolation doesn’t get you down.”

Schuler, who started attending D-Link in 2009, is now a facilitator, helping UB medical students run the meetings that deal with all aspects of life with diabetes and adolescence.

“While most teens were diagnosed when they were younger, the developmental complexities of adolescence may change the way they deal with their disease,” said Dr. Lucy Mastrandrea, associate professor of pediatrics at UB and attending physician in endocrinology at Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.

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