Elsa Kristiansson

Type 1 Diabetic | Visual Communication Student 

Scroll down to read more about Elsa's diabetic diagnosis and design studies.

Thursday 20th July 2023

Meet Elsa Kristiansson

  • TYPE 1 DIABETIC - Diagnosed at the age of 8
  • In Elsa's words: In December 2008, my mum started noticing that I wasn’t well. I was getting up several times a night to go to the toilet and drink water. A few days later I started to drastically lose weight and I was constantly tired. We went to the doctors to see what was wrong, and due to them being so busy near Christmas, they said it was just the flu, and sent us away with some penicillin. I continued to get worse and worse at this point, and a few days before Christmas my mum’s friend (who was conveniently a doctor) said that it looked like I had Type 1 Diabetes, and that I needed to be taken to hospital immediately.

    We arrived at hospital, and they took one look at me, did a blood test which took about 20 seconds, and told us that I had type one diabetes. I spent the week in hospital and missed Christmas and my birthday due to an initial misdiagnosis.

"I found my devices scary and sometimes avoided checking my blood sugar or giving myself insulin"

Since then, my mum and I have been huge advocates for telling people about the signs of type one diabetes, which has carried on to this day, with me creating TikTok content to raise awareness as well as being in a video for Diabetes UK when I was 11 to talk about the symptoms of diabetes.

I think it’s so important to talk about this as there is no history of diabetes in my family, and my misdiagnosis was close to being fatal, and we didn’t know the symptoms even though I was showing every single one.

(4Ts: toilet, thirsty, tired, thinner)

Growing up as a child with diabetes, I wished there were cases, stickers and patches to decorate my devices with, and as these didn’t exist then, I found my devices scary and sometimes avoided checking my blood sugar or giving myself insulin as I was scared of doing something wrong. That’s why I am so glad that Diabetic Supply exists, as whilst I had to get over my fear as a child to look after myself properly, anyone who is diagnosed now can make their devices look so much more user friendly and less scary and therefore give themselves better care than I did growing up.

More subjects that I wish people were more aware of...

The dangers of hypo- and hyperglycaemia.

Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) if not treated fast enough can lead to unconsciousness or even seizures which has happened to me several times. Before the first seizure I had, I used to be comfortable waiting a couple of minutes before sorting out my low blood sugar if I was busy doing something, whereas now I treat this immediately.

Hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), where the body doesn’t have enough insulin stored to combat high blood sugar so you become extremely ill within a few hours, and in severe cases this can be fatal. I’ve unfortunately had this three times throughout my diagnosis, and I’ve had to be hospitalised for days each time.

Both of these conditions weren’t ever mentioned to me until I got them. I also want to educate people on how important the correct treatment for diabetes is, and wish curriculums in schools taught more about it, as I’ve been asked several times if I need someone to give me insulin when I’ve had low blood sugar, or give me sugar when my blood sugar is high.

I’ve also had to phone the ambulance myself when I’ve had DKA in the past and I’ve had to explain to paramedics what the condition is, which you really don’t have time for when you are that ill. I think there are amazing companies out there like Diabetic Supply who raise awareness for diabetes as well as offering stickers and patches to decorate your devices to make diabetes feel a little less scary, and I hope I can help in a similar way in future.

What Elsa is doing now...

I am currently going into my second year at Falmouth University studying Visual Communication. Visual Communication entails learning about the meaning behind art and awareness and seeing how powerful art and graphic design can be.

I have created several design portfolios which I have submitted for assessment and I am currently learning about campaign work, and whilst the topic we’ve been given is animal rights, I hope to use these skills for diabetes campaigning in future.

One of the reasons I am studying this course is so I can pursue a career in raising type one diabetes awareness, and designing device stickers is what I would like to do in future so getting to do this collaboration was a dream come true!

This university course is completely online, so I am able to work full time as well as study. Juggling this can occasionally be overwhelming, which usually affects my blood sugar too. It was definitely a learning curve to find out that stress makes my blood sugar high and anxiety makes my blood sugar drop. That is another reason why I’m so grateful for current diabetes technology, my insulin pump has Control IQ, meaning it will adjust my basal rate based on what my blood sugar is doing to increase my time in range.

Instagram: @elsakdesigns TikTok: @diabetic.elsa Portfolio: elsakdesignw 

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