Episode 5: Sarah Ayers - A Type 1, Nurse and Covid-19 Survivor

April 22, 2020 George Canyon / Sarah Ayers
Episode 5: Sarah Ayers - A Type 1, Nurse and Covid-19 Survivor
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Episode 5: Sarah Ayers - A Type 1, Nurse and Covid-19 Survivor
Apr 22, 2020
George Canyon / Sarah Ayers

We are currently in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. But how does this virus affect people living with diabetes who have an increased risk for some infections? We have come to understand the symptoms but they affect each person differently. Let’s meet 29 year old Sarah Ayers, a type 1 diabetic nurse from Ontario who contracted and has recovered from Covid-19. 

Show Notes Transcript

We are currently in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. But how does this virus affect people living with diabetes who have an increased risk for some infections? We have come to understand the symptoms but they affect each person differently. Let’s meet 29 year old Sarah Ayers, a type 1 diabetic nurse from Ontario who contracted and has recovered from Covid-19. 

spk_0:   0:06
Hi Everyone. This is George Canyon and you're listening to 'Life as a Diabetic - The Highs and Lows'. This is podcast number five. Wow, number five. And it's also on video. This podcast is also is available on YouTube. That's the vlog. So check that out on YouTube as well. And thanks so much for tuning in to 'Life as a Diabetic, The Highs and Lows' on your favorite podcast player. This is a crazy episode that I never thought I would ever get to interview somebody in this position. This just popped up - and a big thanks to Dave Prowten, President and CEO of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in Canada here. Who brought this to my attention. He said, Hey, how would you... what would you think about interviewing a type 1 diabetic nurse who survived Covid? And I was like, um, are you serious? And he said, Yeah, dead serious. So we are just over the moon excited toe have Miss Sarah Ayers with us, and I have pre-recorded with her. So we're gonna have that up just shortly. Just a few things to talk about quick, prior coming in. So you know who Sarah is? She is, of course, a nurse 29 years old. He's been a nurse for five years, and she'll tell you all about that down in Ontario. Type one diabetic. She was diagnosed at age 11. I believe I have notes. Um, making sure you all the notes and she has survived Covid. It's, um, incredible story. Now, the the side thing for me to note is, as a type one diabetic, I've well, when all this came down with Covid, I stayed home for 3.5 weeks. I did not really go, the other... Last week I went to Home Depot, and I'm not gonna I'm not kidding. I walked in there and I just felt this just Oh, my gosh, this smothering just ah, negative energy. It was not from Home Depot, but just just the air of people where everyone was like, Oh, you know what What's happening? And I equated it to watching those those shows there on TV was called some people walking, Walking Dead, and it just felt weird. But once you realize everyone's, you know, abiding, staying six feet apart in the store... they're only allowing so many in and then you realize OK, Everyone's really, really treating this responsibly ...there's a few Covid idiots, but you know they're everywhere, no matter what we're dealing with. But for me, it's a type one diabetic. I thought, Gosh, okay, you know, I'm I'm turning 50 this year. I'm in great shape, probably in the best shape of my life. I take really tight control of my diabetes, but I've been a type one diabetic for 36 years and you know you don't want to. You don't want to stand directly behind the horse. If you don't know the horse, don't kick. That's really that's really, like an old rancher said that once to me. So I stayed home and getting to talk to Sarah and knowing that she was. She's a nurse and she's on the front line, and she went to work every day as a type one diabetic, knowing that she might possibly get Covid. That's bravery. Unbelievable. All our health care workers, all our front line responders. We just need to thank them so much when, when this is all over, give them big hugs. But wait till it's all over. Otherwise you're breaking the social distancing rules. So without further ado, I'm going to Ah, hit play. And you guys are going to get to hear this this incredible young lady speak about her experience as a type one diabetic, a nurse and surviving Covid. So ladies and gentlemen, Miss Sarah Ayers. Hi, Sarah. How are you doing?

spk_1:   3:44
I'm doing well, thanks, how are you?

spk_0:   3:46
We're good. It's been it's been, it's been and crazy. Thanks so much for joining us here. You know, when Dave Prowten, the CEO president of JDRF told me I had this opportunity to talk to a nurse who is a type one diabetic who survived Covid are like, Oh, my gosh, this is fantastic. First off, thank you so much for being on the front lines. You and all the other health care givers that there and frontline workers. We owe you a debt of gratitude. To go to work every day is sincere bravery.  So thank you for that. And how long have you been type one diabetic?

spk_1:   4:20
18 years now.

spk_0:   4:21
18. And you're 29. So diagnosed at 11. What was that like?

spk_1:   4:27
Um, that was it was a little overwhelming as a kid, but, you know, you just learn a whole lot all at once and adjust to a new normal type of life. And, move on.

spk_0:   4:38
Yah, the new normal. When I was diagnosed, they put me in the hospital for a week. Did they do that with you?

spk_1:   4:45
I think I might have been in hospital overnight. And then after that, it was just a couple of days of me, my parents going and learning what we could.

spk_0:   4:52
Wow, that's ah, that's crazy how times have changed. And what are your treatment methods? How are you treating your type one?

spk_1:   5:00
I'm on an insulin pump. So I did injections for, I think, about seven years and then moved to an insulin pump. And I've been on the pump for about 11 years. So it's the Medtronic 670G.

spk_0:   5:11
And what do you What's your thoughts on pump therapy?

spk_1:   5:14
I I love it. I mean, I was pretty hesitant to switch over. I just don't really like change. So my doctors a long time to convince me that it was good, good idea and as soon as I switched. I I loved it, you know, allows for a lot more flexibility, and yeah.

spk_0:   5:29
It does. Yeah, and that's the one thing I try to talk to parents for kids with diabetes about is... You're gonna love it more than your kid is because it just it just gives them so much more freedom. And ahh....are you on a CGM at all? You do any of that stuff?

spk_1:   5:43
I do. Kind of on and off CGM I'm pretty new to it. So I've been using it for maybe  about six months and yeah, on and off.

spk_0:   5:50
So I know this question is ah, on the hearts of and minds of all diabetics, right now, when I ask it.  Tell us about the Covid situation. How what was happening? How did you find out you had Covid first?

spk_1:   6:04
Uh, let's see. So I I went on vacation to Europe at the end of February, and it's kind of before everything had started. And before there was really any kind of travel warnings to areas I was going to. Had a really nice two week vacation and then right at the end of it is when kinda Covid started becoming more serious here in Canada, and they started advising people to come home. So came home self-isolated and then, about three days later, developed symptoms.

spk_0:   6:30
Wow! Okay, now, of course, now the logical next question is you develop symptoms? What happened with your type one diabetes?

spk_1:   6:40
My diabetes, actually I found wasn't really impacted. And I know it's probably surprising and might not be the case for everyone, but I found my blood sugars actually didn't really change too much from their usual. Yeah, just, you know, I tried to keep a closer eye on them just cause especially when there was one day where I wasn't really eating, so just keeping a close eye on my sugars, but I found them pretty stable.

spk_0:   7:02
That's where the insulin bump really comes in there  hey?, Having that ability to control what you're getting, if anything, is shutting it down. Um, So how many days were you stuck in bed, then?

spk_1:   7:15
Um, symptoms total about 10 days, but I think I was in bed for six or seven days. Just really low energy, completely exhausted. And body aches, fever for about a day.

spk_0:   7:27
A day? Yikes Okay. What would you compare it to? I've heard lots of people say they've never had this experience before. And then I've heard lots of people say well, it felt like the flu.

spk_1:   7:39
Um, yeah, I would say it felt like a flu but worse is definitely kind of the worst I've ever felt in my life and lasted the longest. But I think I got very lucky that I didn't have major respiratory symptoms. I didn't have, you know, severe shortness of breath or anything like that. So really, I got pretty lucky.

spk_0:   7:58
That's good. And of course, umm... I mean, I'm I'm stuck at home and luckily, my studio's at home. But we've got lots of stuff going around us. You're going to hear lawnmowers going, Spring has sprung, but you have to go into work every day and knowing you're a type one diabetic, does that weigh on you at all? Did that weigh on you? Of course. Now you've gone through Covid...But did it weigh on you before you before you got Covid?

spk_1:   8:25
It did a little bit, um, I actually found that JDRF was really great at kind of sending information and keeping people informed. So I know they had sent out information that, you know, just because you're diabetic doesn't necessarily mean you're at greater risk of getting Covid or even having more symptoms. So I actually found that was really reassuring to me. And then especially once I got Covid, just knowing, you know, didn't necessarily mean I was going to have worse outcomes.

spk_0:   8:50
So what would your advice be then to to diabetics that are like me that literally hunkered down now... was 3.5 weeks before I went to Home Depot last week. And up to that point, I didn't leave the house because I just didn't know.

spk_1:   9:06
Yeah, I mean, I think it's probably similar to advice for everyone. I mean, obviously stay home as much as you can. And if you do go out, take proper precautions, you know wash your hands, wear a mask, if possible. But I think also another thing I want to know is that even if you are diabetic and you got this, you can get through it. The same way I did, you know?

spk_0:   9:25
Yeah, that's important to know. And you know, we do well, most diabetic type one diabetics. I mean, take care. I mean, the kids I get to talk to take incredible care of themselves, and I think it's a discipline we learn. You learned at 11 years old control your disease and live your dreams. And now you're a nurse for five years now, and that's I mean, really five years. You're just getting going?

spk_1:   9:49

spk_0:   9:49
Yeah, you got a long career ahead of you know where where is your specialty? Where do you nurse at?

spk_1:   9:54
I'm in the cardiology unit.

spk_0:   9:56
Wow. Okay, that's got to be a little heavy.

spk_1:   10:00
Yeah. Can be pretty busy at times.

spk_0:   10:03
Yeah. How do you How do you How do you do with your blood sugars when you're when you're at work to have any issues at all? Have you had any issues?

spk_1:   10:11
Um, yeah. I mean, it's just hard because every day really is different. My schedule there is pretty unpredictable and can be very busy. So sometimes it is hard to take breaks. You know, I don't take breaks the same time every day. And so I mean, the pump really helps for sure in that case, and even the CGM, being able to kind of quickly glance at my pump and know my blood sugar is has been a big help. But, you know, just adjust. And I know my body pretty well, so I can tell when I'm going low or when I'm high, really, And take it day by day and

spk_0:   10:42
And that's ah, well, that's that's what we all do. You gotta take it day by day. That's how diabetes works. My specialist says, some days you're gonna fall off the road and other days you'll be right on there. What are your aspirations now? You're still quite young. And I know all the diabetics I talked with have these huge dreams. It's it's amazing, not unlike me. I have have and have still had and have huge dreams. But what about yourself?

spk_1:   11:08
Oh, that's a great question. I'm still trying to figure it out. I really enjoy kind of the nursing I'm doing now, but I am thinking about possibly trying to get into diabetes education, something like that. So, yeah, we'll see my life takes me.

spk_0:   11:22
Well, you know, I think it's going to take you wherever you want it to go. Sarah, you're very determined and very brave. And once again, thank you so much for for being on the front lines as not just as a type one diabetic, but just being there as a nurse and working to help protect and and also save Canadians from this Covid 19 because that's that's determination, getting you guys going to work and working all those hours.

spk_1:   11:49
For sure. Thank you and thanks for all the work you do for JDRF and advocating for diabetics.

spk_0:   11:52
Oh,  my pleasure. It is my pleasure. You take care of yourself Sarah, and we hope to talk to you once ah, once this whole Covid thing is all over, we should get back on the line and and talk more about diabetes control. And where you see type one diabetics where the control is going in the future and what it's like at the nursing level too as well.

spk_1:   12:13
Yeah, that would be great. And take care.

spk_0:   12:14
You too. See you later Sarah. Well, wasn't that amazing? Incredible bravery and just a great young lady out there helping Canadians and in her home province in Ontario as a type one diabetic and doing really well, you know, like she I think you know, if I was in her shoes, I'd be whining. She didn't whine at all. She's like, Yeah, I dealt with it. Got through it doing fine and great advice to other diabetics as well. Take care of yourself, but but know that you're strong. Know that if you get Covid, you can live through this and you can survive it and you can be - you can be stronger on the other side. So thanks so much for tuning in today. There's really I rearranged the podcast format for podcast five just to have this opportunity. Podcast six will be coming up and you're gonna want to tune in for that. We're gonna get to talk to my manager, who's like my little brother has been like a brother of mine for over 20 years, Jim Cressman. And Jim is not a type one diabetic. But let me tell you, he's had to put up with a type one diabetic for many, many years and he's got some great stories and we're gonna talk about exercise as well. Jim actually was a professional boxer. I think he had five fights. You might. He might talk about that back when he was younger. He is still quite young. He's way younger than I am, but he's got a lot of great advice and things we can definitely need to hear as a diabetic community. So thanks so much for joining us. I'm George Canyon and you've been listening to 'Life as a Diabetic - The Highs and the Lows'. God bless everybody and we'll see you and get to talk to you next week.