Whether you work at Tandem Diabetes Care, or use our products, we consider you part of the Tandem Family. This series explores the roots of our Tandem Family Tree and introduces you to our family members outside of the company.
It was about a week after his 10th birthday when Dakota Ostrenger, 27, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Flu-like symptoms kept him in bed for three days before his parents decided to make the 45-minute drive from their small Nevada town to an emergency room in Las Vegas. As the story goes, his father had to carry him through the doors.
No doubt, it was a scary time for Dakota. He remembers the fear and confusion. He doesn’t ever want kids living with diabetes to feel like they are alone.
That’s why he got involved with Camp Buck through the Nevada-California Diabetes Association, where he serves as their director of media and assistant camp director.
It’s also the camp that Dakota initially rolled his eyes at when he was a teenager. But five minutes into his experience as a camper, he knew he’d found a home. It’s that same feeling of inclusion he shares with the next generation of campers.
How did you get involved with Camp Buck and the Nevada-California Diabetes Association?
Dakota Ostrenger: I actually got involved with their camp programs first. My parents tried to get me to go for a while after I was diagnosed and I kept saying, ‘No, I don’t wanna go. Like diabetes camp? What am I going to do, go sit in a circle and test my blood? No thank you, I'm good.’
I thought I was too cool for diabetes camp. Of course, I was wrong. A couple years later my mom forced me to go. We were at the airport and I cold-shouldered her the whole time. Not even five minutes into camp I called her and told her to sign me up for every event. I haven’t missed a year since.
That was 2007 and it completely changed my life. I’d been volunteering until 2019 when I got offered a job.
What’s the most rewarding part about what you do?
Dakota Ostrenger: The kids. I see all the hard work and behind the scenes that goes into camp. Seeing all the love, laughter, and good times these kids have at diabetes camp is worth every hour, minute, and day that we put in. Knowing that they are not along through this is so rewarding.
You are very brave the way you put yourself out there on social media. What made you decide to be so open about your type 1 diabetes?
Dakota Ostrenger: I have always been open about my diabetes since Day 1. Before social media, my mom worked for the local school district, and I would get calls to come talk to families and patients who were recently diagnosed. I wanted to let them know they can do anything in life. Diabetes does not hold you back.
I hoped it would resonate a little more coming from me — a guy with big holes in his ears and tattoos. There isn't a cookie-cutter image of diabetes. Diabetes does not discriminate on age, upbringing, or culture. We all have our own stories, and I figured I could meet some cool new people and share my own story along the way.
How did you decide to choose a t:slim X2™ insulin pump?
Dakota Ostrenger: I was on MDI [multiple daily injections]. At the time it was the best fit for my busy life. I was playing in a band, always doing different stuff, always on the go. But then at the diabetes camp I saw like three or four people with this new pump that was touchscreen, a color screen, software upgrades and micro-USB charged? I was sold instantly.
I had to have one. It was ahead of the game. It was what pumps should've been. I got it and haven't looked back.
Tell us something completely unique about yourself that has absolutely nothing to do with diabetes?
Dakota Ostrenger: I have a twin brother. We are totally different though. He's got a shaved head, no tattoos, and he's tall. I have long hair, piercings, tattoos, and I’m not 6-foot-1. He doesn’t have diabetes. He's got poor eyesight and I have diabetes. You be the judge of who was the lucky one.
Choosing how to manage your diabetes is very personal. What advice do you have for someone who is still deciding whether to use a pump?
Dakota Ostrenger: What works for someone may not work for you. We are all different. Our diabetes journey is unique. Reach out to people about the pros and cons they have found with their pumps and they might line up with some of your concerns.
But remember, when it comes to pumps, it’s about finding the one that suits you best, your lifestyle, and what you find aesthetically pleasing.
What else would you like to add?
Dakota Ostrenger: I'd like to just say that you are not alone, even if you feel like it some days. We are all in this together and I would absolutely recommend getting involved with camp programs, whether it be Nevada Diabetes Association camp programs/events, or some other organizations that are local to you. They will change your life. And if you think that you missed out, or are too old for them now, you're wrong. Becoming a counselor is all the same fun and will truly make a difference in a camper’s life and yours.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Dakota, and for being part of the Tandem Family Tree. You definitely make camp sound awesome.
From time to time, we may pass along suggestions, tips, or information about other Tandem insulin pump user experiences or approaches to the management of diabetes. Please note, however, individual symptoms, situations, circumstances, and results may vary. Please consult your physician or qualified healthcare provider regarding your condition and appropriate medical treatment. Please read the Important Safety Information before using a Tandem Diabetes Care product.