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Insulin powered

Young hero living with type 1 diabetes inspires pharmacy students

By Heidi Wicks

Ten-year-old Colby Ryan has a lot to be proud of.

Despite his diagnosis of type 1 diabetes at age seven, he has embraced a number of opportunities to promote health and wellness for people of all ages who are affected by the disease.

Public speaker

Colby visited Memorial’s School of Pharmacy recently to speak to students about learning to live with his condition.

Colby Ryan speaks to pharmacy students about fighting type 1 diabetes.
Colby Ryan speaks to pharmacy students about fighting type 1 diabetes.
Photo: Submitted

While his parents looked on with pride, Colby addressed the students with poise and maturity far beyond his decade of living.

“The symptoms I had were using the washroom and drinking a lot, and I also had very blurry vision,” he explained, standing bravely in a superhero t-shirt with the words “Insulin Powered” on it. “Right away I started on four needles a day, and then within eight months I started on my insulin pump.”

Colby also wears a Dexcom CGM, a constant glucose monitor that allows him to see his blood glucose and sounds an alarm when his levels go too high or too low. When he’s playing sports, his father, Scot Ryan, monitors his levels and can adjust as necessary right from the bleachers.

Constant monitoring

Living with type 1 presents its challenges. A usual day for Colby includes checking his blood glucose when he eats anything. He enters the amount of carbohydrates he eats into his Dexcom CGM; his pump then tells him how much insulin to allow for safe consumption.

The process requires constant monitoring, and the Ryan family is grateful for modern technology. Colby and his mother, Terri Ryan, also talked with the pharmacy students about the equipment they chose to help Colby live with his condition in the most effective way possible.

‘Few positive things’

“Living with the everyday roller-coaster isn’t so much fun,” Colby said. “But a few positive things have happened along the way.”

He has been the ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetic Research Foundation (JDRF) Telus Walk to Cure Diabetes, which takes place each June in Newfoundland and Labrador, for the past three years. His team, the Jediabetics, is one of the top teams, raising more than $10,000 for research for a cure.

“My newest addition to this adventure is that I was just chosen to go to Ottawa this month to represent Newfoundland and Labrador on Lobby Day.” — Colby Ryan

He has met and spoken with “some very cool people,” including NASCAR driver Ryan Reid and NHL player Max Domi, who also lives with type 1.

“My newest addition to this adventure is that I was just chosen to go to Ottawa this month to represent Newfoundland and Labrador on Lobby Day, where 22 kids from across Canada get to go to Parliament and speak with the members and tell them our stories, and let them know why it is important to help us fund research to find a cure,” he said.

He is very excited to attend the JDRF event on Nov. 25. He says the opportunity to take part in the organization’s largest awareness campaign is “a huge privilege to be able to speak on behalf of so many friends living with type 1.”


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