Patient Finds a New Commitment to Care for Herself and a Voice to Serve Others with Diabetes

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When you don’t keep up with your car payments, it’s 26-year old Carlye Dalkert who asks you why.

A collections agent for Draper, Utah-based second chance loan company Prestige Financial will call, email and text people to try to negotiate payment plans when they fall behind on loans that accrue daily interest. Her goal is to get them current by the end of the month. If they ignore the phone calls—it’s called going “no contact” —or hide the car in a storage unit to evade repossession, she tracks them down, work known as skip tracing.

These individuals, she says, “would rather stay in the grey unknown than take care of it,” recalling the words of wisdom of a former boss. If a customer dumps their flip phone, then they reason she can’t find them and they won’t have to make their payments.

But such thinking, Carlye learned, is not just the purview of those she runs to ground. She discovered that when it came to managing her diabetes, she’d also hoped issues would just go away.

“How they handle their car payments is how I handled my life for a long time.”

After attending a one-day class at the One Day Diabetes Education, Treatment, and Testing Program, Carlye not only understood better her condition and how to manage it, she also found a community she wanted to help. “I didn’t realize how valuable being in the community would be. I feel if I had been introduced to this community sooner, I would have cared and taken care of myself sooner.”

Carlye was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 12, while growing up in Michigan. She was going to the bathroom so much to pee, she lost 30 pounds in just three weeks. The teen thought the weight loss was “awesome.” Her mother thought she was bulimic. When they went to the hospital, a doctor told Carlye, “You should be dead by now.” She had a blood sugar level well over 1500 mg/dL—an average person is around 110.   

Her diagnosis was a horrifying experience, she says. A nurse told her, “This is your disease and you will deal with it.” All the teen could think was, “Oh my god, I have to give myself shots to live. There’s something wrong with me.”

She sank into a depression. On the 8 foot by 4 foot bathroom mirror, she wrote over and over in blue marker, “I hate diabetes.” When her mother saw her writing, she burst into tears.

Initially she injected insulin into her stomach and thigh, but she has “T-rex arms,” she says, so that proved challenging. She opted for an insulin pump, which meant having to change the IV tubing into her stomach every three days and replacing the 300 units of insulin. “I’m pretty insulin resistant. It’s not that my body doesn’t like insulin, it’s that it needs more to get the job done.” 

She moved to Utah after graduating from high school to study forensic pathology at Westminster College, then switched to the University of Utah where she got a degree in sociology with a criminal certificate.

A common theme in her life, she says, is “I didn’t want to be that challenged,” whether in academic life or sports. “It was not until working here,” she says in the break room of Prestige Financial, “that I realized how valuable it is to be challenged and take those steps that are scary.”

At Prestige, she’s had to learn how to read people, she says, and understand how they choose to make their bills a priority—or not. “There’s no manual on how to help them get their finances together,” she says.

Then in spring 2018, Carlye discovered after a visit to her doctor that in some ways she was no different from the people she tracked down when it came to how she took care of her diabetes.

She hadn’t been to a physician since 2014, after a doctor told her that she was deliberately hurting herself. “You’re letting your blood sugar sit low and doing nothing about it,” she told her.

She had stopped seeing physicians. Whenever she felt her blood-sugar level was high, she trained her body to ignore its response—the shakes, cotton-mouth, excessive thirst, going to the bathroom repeatedly. “You should feel those things at 250. I wasn’t feeling them until 300, 350 because my body was used to running at a higher blood sugar level.” She’d also leave the IV, rather than change it out every three days. “I did what I felt I wanted to.”

In May 2018, she went to see Laura Burton at the U of U Health Utah Diabetes Center. “Your A1C is a little high,” Burton said, sliding over a paper that showed the results of her blood-sugar control was 9.6--a level that could result in severe organ damage. Burton suggested she attend a diabetes education class. Carlye was scared Burton would take away her driver’s license, putting the job she so loves in jeopardy, so she went to the class -- part of a program made possible by the generous support from the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation as part of Driving Out Diabetes, a Larry H. Miller Family Wellness Initiative.

She sat at the back of the room in a presentation on the history of diabetes, her arms crossed. “I’m not a very emotional person,” she says. “Your hug isn’t going to make my pancreas recover.”

A young woman in the six-strong class struggled through tears as she talked about her recent diagnosis. Carlye was transported back to her own confusion as a child when no one talked to her about the disease in the aftermath of her diagnosis. She gave the woman feedback. A 9-year-old girl kept ignoring her glucose monitor as its alarm blared. Carlye had done the same thing. “I’ve ignored those alarms before. I’ve snoozed it.”

These were people, she realized, who, like her, were struggling with their illness and its complications. She shared her own struggles and experiences with the class, both surprised and gratified at the feeling of helping others.

“I’m better than this,” thought Carlye. “I won’t let this disease take control.”

She got involved in a local online-diabetic community, and became a spokesperson for the center’s diabetes program. She counseled parents concerned about a child not taking care of themselves, talked to a child struggling with her diagnosis, and lobbied a U.S. senator for funding for diabetes patients.

Since taking control of her diabetes, she’s been repeatedly reminded that for each person, whether it’s a late car payment or putting off monitoring their glucose, only the individual can make the decision to do something about it.

As a friend once told her, “You’ll see it when you’re ready.”

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