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It’s not a problem, sugar

Twins Gaurav and Saurav lead identical lives, except for one difference: one of them has diabetes. But it is impossible to tell which one lives with a insulin pump by his side, writes Sanchita Sharma.

health and fitness Updated: Mar 29, 2008 22:57 IST
Sanchita Sharma

Most people have trouble telling Gaurav and Saurav Sood apart and with reason. The 17-year-old identical twins look and behave similarly, which makes it even harder for a stranger to believe that one of them has diabetes and needs insulin infusion using a pump five times a day.

Gaurav was diagnosed with type-1 or insulin-dependent diabetes in 2006, which happened to be his Class X board year but he went on to score 90 per cent. “It doesn’t really bother me. I carry the insulin pump with me 24 ours a day and it’s no hassle at all. I don’t even remember I have it until mealtimes. It’s like wearing spectacles, you remember you have them on only when you need to wash your face,” he shrugs.

People with type-I diabetes cannot produce insulin or produce too little of it to be able to regulate their blood glucose levels. They need to inject insulin every day, generally around mealtimes. “Insulin needs to be injected because if taken orally, it would be destroyed in the stomach before it gets into the bloodstream,” says Dr Ambrish Mithal, senior endocrinologist at Apollo Hospital.

It is believed to be an autoimmune disease caused by the body’s immune system destroying the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. “No one in our extended family has type-I diabetes, so we still haven’t figured out how it happened. We took Gaurav to the doctor when he developed what appeared to be an unquenchable thirst and started losing weight rapidly,” says his father Sanjay Sood, DGM purchase at Bajaj Ecotech.

The blood test showed that Gaurav had high sugar levels, so the pathologist asked for a repeat test. Even then the Soods

did not suspect their healthy and active son could have diabetes. “We thought the

blood samples had got mixed up. The confirmed results were like a bolt from the blue. It was big shock, we thought it couldn’t be true, it couldn’t happen to us,” says his mother Geeta.

Gaurav’s parents were horrified when they were told that their teenage son would need to take daily injections of insulin to metabolise sugar into energy. “I couldn’t bear to see him take injections daily so we went for an insulin pump immediately,” she says. Not everyone can afford an insulin pump —it costs Rs 1.6 lakh. Apart from this one-time investment, the monthly cost of insulin is between Rs 9,000 and Rs 10,000.

Gaurav’s diabetes is very well controlled. “He manages the pump very well and adjusts the insulin dose depending on what he is eating,” says Dr Mithal.

Agrees his mother. “Initially, we were very careful about what we ate and did not allow sweets or junk food in the house, but now Gaurav has an occasional pizza and icecream without a worry. He is managing his sugar levels very well,” she says.

On his part, Gaurav has never considered diabetes a problem. “It hasn’t made any difference to my life. All my friends and teachers know I have diabetes but it does not bother them,” he says.

That’s not to say he doesn’t realise he is one of a very small percentage of people with juvenile diabetes. “Being diagnosed with diabetes prevented me from doing constructive studies for a month and I lost out a month in my board year,” he says, which is perhaps why he got 90 per cent while his brother got 93 per cent in Class X.

Now things are back on an even keel as the twins are busy preparing for the IIT entrance exams. “We study five hours a day, listen to music, watch films and go for walks now and then. Diabetes is not a problem at all,” says Gaurav.

Still, Geeta frets a little. “There are minor hiccups, such as developing hypoglycaemia when the insulin dosage goes wrong. I worry about the time when he will be away in a hostel and I won’t be around to keep an eye on him,” she says.

Gaurav laughs it off. “All moms worry. She frets as much for Saurav, so we are both used to it,” he says.