Daily Herald American Diabetes Association
Baby's birth result of careful planning for mom with diabetes

Jenna Scarsi is someone who literally "walks the walk" when it comes to professionally sharing her knowledge as a diabetes educator and living with the disease herself.

Jenna Scarsi
Jenna Scarsi of Arlington Heights says the birth of her daughter Lola was the culmination of careful planning and monitoring due to Scarsi's type 1 diabetes.

The Arlington Heights resident says that no matter how old you are or at what age you're diagnosed, diabetes is going to provide challenges at every step and stage. Diabetes experts say that everything from initial diagnosis and returning to school, to going away to overnight camp, college, moving out on your own, dating, driving, jobs and starting a family can bring special challenges when it comes to diabetes control.

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as an Indianapolis 11-year-old, Scarsi and her family are no strangers to traversing some of those challenges.

"I remember having flu-like symptoms and being sick when my mom took me to the emergency room in the middle of the night," Scarsi recalls. "With blood sugar levels off the charts and hovering near 1,000, I was diagnosed with diabetes, admitted to the hospital and stayed about a week learning all about my diabetes and care."

The former Northwest Community Hospital registered dietitian and diabetes educator says that based on personal experience, rather than giving newly diagnosed children a testing schedule and list of what to eat and not to eat, hope seems to be the key.

"The good news for children is that type 1 diabetes is manageable with daily injections and diligent monitoring - but try telling that to a newly diagnosed preteen most concerned about fitting in with peers," she states.

Scarsi's experiences living with the disease led her to pursue a degree as a registered dietitian and later certification as a diabetes educator. She initially shared her knowledge with newly diagnosed clients at Northwest Community Hospital and later accepted a position with Novo Nordisk, a pharmaceuticals provider, and spent her days updating and educating staff members in primary care doctors' offices across the suburbs.

"There's so much new information regarding constantly evolving insulins, oral medications, nutritional updates and more," she explains. "Keeping everyone up-to-date on research, care and treatment options was fun and fulfilling - but my new job is even more exciting!"

That new job includes caring for a three-month old daughter, Lola, who was born July 14 at Loyola University Medical Center. Lola tipped the scales at seven pounds, seven ounces, and her birth was the culmination of careful planning and monitoring due to Scarsi's type 1 diabetes.

"Diabetes can be a significant complication for women during pregnancy," Scarsi explains. "Because high blood glucose levels can cause birth defects in unborn babies, it's important for any woman with diabetes to carefully plan pregnancy and make sure their blood glucose levels are well managed from the very beginning of pregnancy."

It was last Thanksgiving when Scarsi learned she was pregnant and began facing new challenges in diabetes control.

"I had lower insulin levels during the first trimester of pregnancy, and within just a few months I found I needed to dramatically adjust my daily insulin doses as I became very insulin resistant," recalls Scarsi, who uses an insulin pump to help manage her diabetes. "By the end of nine months, I was requiring nearly three times as much insulin. That changed immediately following delivery."

While she did carefully watch carbohydrate consumption, Scarsi says that since she had type 1 diabetes, there wasn't really a need to change her diet during the pregnancy.

"However, for those developing diabetes during pregnancy, it's important to learn all you can," she reports. "Your decisions on what you eat can impact the health of your baby."

Scarsi says her high risk pregnancy was made much easier thanks to newer continuous glucose sensors inserted just under her skin and providing constant information on blood glucose fluctuations.

"If I noticed blood sugars elevating just after breakfast, the additional monitoring gave me a better picture of where I was at and what I needed," she explains. "I'd download the data to a secure Web site and transmit the information to my Loyola nursing team for review and recommendations."

Doctors induced labor at 39 weeks gestation and kept Scarsi on a continuous insulin drip during delivery. Baby Lola made her debut at 11:12 p.m. and proud parents Jay and Jenna say in honor of the date - July 14 is Bastille Day in France - they look forward to celebrating one of her birthdays in Paris!

"The experience left me exhilarated, thankful and feeling as if I'd climbed the proverbial mountain," Scarsi says.


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