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Alyce Sneddon

Type 1 Diabetes Success Story

Alyce was born with a genetic autoimmune liver disease called Alpha 1.  At the age of 8 she had three liver transplant surgeries within 21 days, and luckily the third was successful.  Post-transplant anti-rejection medication resulted in insulin-dependent diabetes for the rest of her life. 

This summer (2019) Alyce celebrated the 24th anniversary of receiving the life-saving liver.  During that time, she dealt with other serious health issues.  She’s also the full-time caretaker of her mother and grandmother, both of whom have major health problems. 

From 9 years old through her early teenage years, Alyce’s parents helped her manage diabetes with blood sugar testing and multi daily insulin injections. During her teens and 20’s she neglected her diabetes. 

“My days were spent taking care of my Mom and Dad, and I didn’t take care of myself,” she said. 

Uncontrolled blood sugars led to diabetic neuropathy in her legs, and now there’s very little feeling below the knees.  In 2018, at the age of 32, Alyce developed kidney problems.  After her uncle passed away from kidney disease as the result of diabetes complications, it was a serious wake-up call that motivated her to take action.

“Doctors give you a long list of things to do each time you see them, but it’s a lot of work and it’s overwhelming.  I didn’t do what I was supposed to.  Now I’m paying the price for it,” she said.  “I finally realized that if I didn’t start taking care of my diabetes, I could die.”

Alyce credits UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence Behavioral Health Specialist Dr. Kristin MacGregor and Nurse Practitioner Christine Hoogasian with saving her life.  “They’re incredible and I owe them everything,” she said.  “They started me off slowly with small realistic goals and made me feel good about myself when I achieved them.”     

She lowered her A1c from over 13% to below 6% between November and June!  Dr. MacGregor provided tips and advice about incorporating blood sugar testing into her daily routines and remembering to do it.  “The more I tested my sugars, we were able to make adjustments to my insulin,” Alyce said.  “She told it to me straight, but it gave me the confidence to continue testing and they supported me along the way.”

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) was one of the major fears they worked on together to address.  Alyce was experiencing anxiety about driving and “going low.”  Now she carries glucose tablets and trail mix at all times and checks her blood sugar every time she gets in the car.   

Dr. Hoogasian prescribed an insulin pen and added Trulicity.  Working together as a team they’ve tackled issues and problems one at a time with what Alyce described as “reasonable expectations,” adding “They motivated me with praise and made me realize that you can’t take care of other people if you don’t take care of yourself first.”

She urges people to take the first step and to be open to new ideas.  “It doesn’t happen overnight.  There’s no magic potion that a doctor can give you.  You must continue to work at it.  Take baby steps and don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t perfect.  Most importantly, it’s never too late to start!”

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