Patient Finds Expertise, Friendliness and Fun at UNC Children’s Diabetes Program

The UNC Diabetes Care Center offers specialized care, education, and research for patients - and their families.

Patient Finds Expertise, Friendliness and Fun at UNC Children’s Diabetes Program click to enlarge Rachel Oglesby

“It’s fun.”

That’s a phrase you’ve probably never used to describe a visit to a doctor. But that’s exactly how Rachel Oglesby, a 15-year-old from Wake Forest, N.C., feels about her visits with Dr. Nina Jain, assistant professor of pediatrics at the UNC School of Medicine and director of the UNC Children’s Diabetes Program. 

Rachel was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 7. At the time, Rachel and her family lived in California and she received treatment there. In 2011, her family moved across the country to North Carolina and began seeing Dr. Jain at UNC.

“Because we came from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, which is affiliated with the USC Keck School of Medicine, we knew we received great care from a university system,” said Robin Oglesby, Rachel’s mother. “It was an easy choice to go to UNC.”

The Oglesbys see UNC’s diabetes experts at the UNC Children’s Specialty Clinic in Raleigh – just a short drive from their home in Wake Forest.

The UNC Diabetes Care Center in Chapel Hill, founded in 2006, provides diabetes care, education and research to meet the needs of people with diabetes and their families. Dr. Nina Jain joined the Center as a fellow in 2005 and joined the faculty in 2008. Four years ago, she took over as the director of the UNC diabetes program.

“The UNC Diabetes Care Center is one of three programs in the area, but it’s unique in that it has a transition program geared specifically toward helping teenagers and young adults transition to the adult world and care after college,” Dr. Jain said.

With Type 1 diabetes, Dr. Jain and her colleagues typically see an uptick in diagnoses in school-age children. If initially affected in the summer, then a child typically would have symptoms that include a 2- to 3-week history of increased thirst and may be accompanied by dramatic weight loss. In the winter, flu-like symptoms are more common. For instance, a patient may undergo dehydration, nausea or vomiting. 

Treatments vary based on the individual needs of the Type 1 diabetes patients. Some receive multiple daily shots, while others may have pump therapy, but they all are consistent in that they must artificially replace insulin that their bodies can no longer produce for themselves in sufficient amounts.

For a child with diabetes and her family, keeping up with the treatments and doctor’s appointments and constantly monitoring blood sugar levels can be a lot to handle. They have to think about everything. A simple outing to the park can trigger a number of concerns and questions: “What is my blood sugar?” or “Do I need to take a snack?” or “Is running going to lower her blood sugar?”

For Rachel, these considerations are just that: considerations. She takes them seriously, certainly, but does not let them run her life. A member of the school marching band and an honor roll student, Rachel doesn’t let diabetes hold her back.

“I carry snacks around throughout the day because my numbers will drop and fall,” Rachel said. “At marching band, I always have my glucose monitor close by so I can feel it vibrate against me in case my numbers drop quickly.”

Although doctor’s visits are frequent, Rachel and Robin make the best out of them. They often make mother-daughter days out of the days of her appointments, sandwiching appointments with shopping and lunch outings. The doctor’s visits themselves aren’t too bad, either. Robin particularly enjoys the occasions that Rachel sees medical students, because the students ask a lot of questions that help Rachel stay on top of her care and be prepared. 

“We don’t mind because we are giving back,” Rachel said.

“Doctor’s offices are not always fun, but at UNC REX everyone is so nice,” Rachel said. “Dr. Jain is especially wonderful. We’re really close, and she remembers us. It’s fun.”

 

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