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Anne Jarry sitting on a stool in a sunlit room, speaking for the camera.]

It takes a lot to manage diabetes, and even more when you live with sight loss

Anne Jarry, a Montréal resident, has been living with type 1 diabetes since the age of nine. She lost her sight at 24 while studying at the Université de Montréal and working as a tennis instructor. Although it had been mentioned to her in passing that diabetic retinopathy could be a possible consequence of diabetes, she didn’t think it would happen to her. “When you’re a teenager, you don’t really pay attention to these things”, she recalls. “You think you’re indestructible. I didn’t take care of myself or watch what I ate.” At 58, she has a tiny bit of sight, in the periphery of her right eye. While the loss of sight and managing her diabetes are both part of her everyday life, she never loses sight of the fact that diabetes can make her seriously ill.

“The worst thing that could happen to me is that my blood sugar level drops too low or spikes too high. So, I plan my life around my diabetes. Diabetes has influenced my life in every way. Because I have to check my blood glucose hourly, every aspect of my life has been impacted, from meal planning to sports…everything!”


The advantages of an insulin pump

Anne has hypo and hyperglycemia several times a week. Her main goal is to remain within a safe glycemic index zone the majority of the time. That requires a lot of management, which can be quite challenging when you can’t see. You need to analyze your sugar before and after every meal and determine the right dose of insulin to inject.

In addition to mealtimes, Anne also injects her insulin at night before going to bed. She always keeps some maple syrup and a dose of insulin on her bedside table in case she has a hypo or hyperglycemic attack. It’s difficult to control because insulin takes time to peak. Her sleep is often interrupted, and she frequently wakes up exhausted due to her glycemia. A pump has the advantage of being programmed to inject insulin doses gradually, for instance throughout the night, which helps to better regulate insulin in the body, thereby reducing hypo and hyperglycemia.

Hypoglycemia can be very hard on the body, causing cold sweats, exhaustion and confusion.

“The brain is the organ that needs the most sugar, and your mood and decision-making ability are dependent on it. It leaves you feeling crappy all over,” insists Anne. “Our body contains close to 100,000 km of veins, arteries and blood vessels, and when it doesn’t have enough sugar or has too much, the whole body feels it.”

People like Anne, who have type 1 diabetes, control their glycemia strictly through insulin, measured based on their activities and food intake during the day. “Access to a pump is really important because type 1 diabetes can only be treated with insulin,” emphasizes Anne. “Unfortunately, forpeople with sight loss, that’s simply not accessible.”


The dangers of non-accessible pumps

Information about sugar levels and insulin doses appears visually on a pump.

It’s very serious if you inject the wrong amount,” notes Anne. “If I inject too much insulin, I’ll go into hypoglycemia and may need to be rushed to emergency. If I end up with hyperglycemia, it can be very dangerous for the cardiovascular system.”

“Given the number of people with vision problems due to diabetes, making pumps accessible should be a priority,” she adds. “In Canada, 750,000 people have diabetic retinopathy, one of the main causes of sight loss in the country.”