Kyle Kondoff has a heck of a story to tell. We first saw Kyle on television, when a Texas news team interviewed him about his participation in a clinical trial for the Eversense implantable continuous glucose monitor. We wanted to hear about Kyle’s experience with Eversense, but as soon as we started talking we realized that had had a lot more to tell us.
Lucky for us, Kyle agreed to write a diary. In Part One, Kyle discusses his diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes and his early frustrating days managing the disease while trying to balance his extreme jobs. The story takes us from a rescue team on a rig off the Louisiana coast to the burning oilfields of Texas.
Part One: Diagnosis
My name is Kyle Kondoff, and I am a firefighter with Type 1 diabetes.
I’ve been a firefighter and rescue worker for nine years, but my diabetes story starts about six years ago, on an oil rig out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. I was on a Confined Space and Rope Rescue Team for the workers on the rig. That’s when I first started experiencing frequent thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, and blurry vision. Even though I was trained as an EMT, I never understood that these were the most common signs of diabetes.
I thought all of these symptoms could be explained away. I wasn’t the only one on the rig with blurry vision: we attributed this to the carbon monoxide from the equipment. I was eating all the time, but I was always one to eat a lot. Coworkers made comments how much I drank, but I attributed it to the dry mouth caused by the acid reflux pills I used, which also explained my many bathroom breaks. When my job was done on the rig, I would drive the 8-10 hours home to San Antonio, and stop to go to the bathroom at least 6 times on the way.
I lived this way for a year and a half.
My next job was at a hospital back on the mainland. I was still thirsty all day long, and everyone knew that I could eat anybody under the table. It wasn’t until I confessed to a nurse that I had intermittent blurry vision that someone told me I might have diabetes. I thought she was crazy. I was 27 years old, 5’9″ and 160 lbs. How could I have diabetes?
I went home that night with a lot on my mind. The next day I purchased a blood glucose meter. The first reading was 394. I had just eaten some fast food not long before the test, so I decided to wait and test again. The second finger stick showed 402. I decided that I had to get to the emergency room.
I regret going to the ER that day. They told me I had a Type 2 diabetes. They never gave me insulin. They never checked my ketones. They didn’t check my C peptide or antibodies. I never saw a diabetes educator or endocrinologist. They sent me home with a prescription for metformin, instructions to call me doctor, and so many unanswered questions.
A few days later, at the doctor’s office, they told me my A1C was 9.4. Again I was given no insulin, but I was told that I needed to see a nutritionist, dentist, optometrist, and diabetes educator. I was overwhelmed.
After a couple of weeks of miserable high blood sugars, I scheduled another appointment. Luckily my regular doctor, who had been on vacation earlier, was in. I explained everything that had happened in the last month, and he took one look at me: “Kyle, there is no way that you are Type 2. We will run some tests to confirm that you are Type 1.”
I was only beginning to understand the impact that T1D was going to have on my life. One of the first calls that I made was to one of my fire chiefs. I was so worried that I was not going to be able to do the job, a dream that I had been living for so long. He reassured me: I was good to come back to the fire house as long as I had my doctor’s approval.
I started working in a South Texas oilfield as a firefighter in April 2016. But it wasn’t easy. Sleep was hard to come by, and the work days were long. I still didn’t know how much insulin to use, and I was still eating high carb. I had little energy and sometimes my job performance suffered.
As a firefighter and rescue worker, I don’t have time to worry about my blood glucose. If I am constantly going through the rollercoaster BGs, I am not only putting myself at risk. I am endangering others.
Throughout the years, I have talked to quite a few other firefighters with diabetes. Everybody does their own thing when it comes to control and the job. One man told me that he runs his BG around 200 when he’s on shift, just to avoid the chance of going low. That may be safer in the moment, but I knew it would risk severe complications. Going low and going high are both dangerous.
I was on the blood sugar rollercoaster, and I knew I had to get off.
Stay tuned for Part 2!