'I'm pretty experienced': Decatur 13-year-old talks about growing up with type 1 diabetes

Charlie Thompson spent months prepping for the biggest ride of his life in December: 26 miles around Amelia Island, raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

"It was really exciting," Thompson says.  "The views along the ride are really nice. Surprisingly, my blood sugar stayed pretty fine the whole time."

The ride marked 10 years since the Decatur seventh-grader's diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes.

In 2012, when he was just 2, his mom Kelly says he began losing steam.

"We started noticing he was pretty lethargic, like a lot," she says.  "And, right around Thanksgiving, he started getting really thirsty. He would wake up raging in the middle of the night for something to drink, just raging."

One day, when Charlie had a hard time getting up, Kelly rushed him to the emergency room at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, where she works in media relations.

They checked his blood sugar.

His mother says it was around 650, dangerously close to putting him at risk of a diabetic coma.

Charlie Thompson's immune system had mistakenly attacked his pancreas, causing it to stop producing insulin, the hormone that controls his blood-sugar levels.

At Children's, the Thompsons learned how to check Charlie's blood sugar and give him insulin injections.

"The trick with diabetes is balancing the right amount of sugar and insulin," Kelly Thompson says.  "And, it is a constant struggle, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."

Back at Children's Healthcare for a checkup with nurse practitioner Heather Fritz, Thompson is now wearing an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor, which communicate with each other.  

Fritz says he quickly learned how to use the devices.

"That's what really makes him a joy to take care of, because he is so independent," Fritz says.  "A lot of our time is just spent socially, like, how is life with diabetes? How can I help you manage the bike ride with diabetes? How do we manage school events with diabetes? Because he has everything else pretty much down pat."

Thompson's insulin pump is constantly communicating with his glucose monitor.

"It delivers insulin in place of my pancreas, so that I can eat food with sugar," he says.

The glucose monitor alerts him if his blood-sugar levels are too high or too low.

"It's right here on my arm, and that connects to my pump, so I can see my blood sugar on the pump at all times," Thompson explains.

12-year-old boy rides his bike across a bridge on Amelia Island.

(Thompson Family photo)

As Thompson is talking to us, the glucose alarm beeps.

"So, it's just saying that my blood sugar is low, which means I have a below average amount of sugar in my blood. I just need to get sugar to bring that back up," he says.

His mom brings out some juice and his glucose tablets.

Like riding, life with diabetes requires practice and work. But, Charlie Thompson says he has got this.

"I'm pretty confident about being by myself just because I know what it's all about," Thompson says.  "I've had it for 10 years, and I'd say I'm pretty experienced with diabetes."