Diabetes Awareness Month
November 10, 2014
November is Diabetes Awareness Month and I've personally had enough awareness to last a lifetime. That's how long Type-1 juvenile diabetes lasts: a lifetime. Oh sure, they are seeking a cure and more products and devices are making this disease more manageable. But there's no perfect cure yet. Basically, diabetes means your pancreas does not work, as the disease causes the body to be incapable of producing or properly using insulin. Insulin converts the food we make into the energy we need.
It's a common misconception that people with diabetes are not able to eat sugar. There are two types of diabetes:Type-1, and Type-2. My father had Type-1 juvenile diabetes. Although it's called "juvenile," it means "insulin dependent." At 19, while serving in the US Army, my father passed out in a field. His diagnosis was juvenile diabetes. He was released to a life of insulin injections. Growing up, I understood little of what he went through. I remember he'd warm his bottles of insulin on the stove as his coffee perked. I'd have a mouthful of Rice Krispies while he slapped his thigh and injected himself. Some nights I'd be awakened by an ambulance that had come to take my father to the hospital to "get him better." When I was older, I learned that these were incidents of low blood sugar. After numerous amputations and a kidney transplant, my father's body had had enough, and I know he is in heaven now, peaceful, and with a perfect body.
My daughter, who's now 24, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at 16 months. Only then did I fully begin to understand the day-to-day seriousness of this disease. Treating a toddler and raising a daughter whose body needs constant management are just small parts of this puzzle. Thankfully, medical technology has advanced, giving today's diabetics many more options towards great care. My child has endured unending series of blood tests, injections, and medical challenges. Everything she does is affected: the food she eats, the activity she has, and the emotions she goes through.
For diabetics, taking care of their bodies is a 24/7 job. In fact, she can eat sugar, but she needs to count the grams of carbohydrates involved in any food she eats. Then she must give herself enough insulin to cover it, while managing any activity she may have at the time as well. To this day, icing is her favorite treat in the world; forget the cake, just give her the frosting.
We've used hundreds of supplies: blood glucose machines, needles, lancets, insulin pumps, test strips, and glucose. We've hosted walkathons, teams, and fundraisers. We've gone to Washington DC to address Congress to get more government aid towards finding a cure. Everyone has something to manage, whether it's medical or not. In the United States there are 23.6 million children and adults with diabetes, and approximately 5.7 million people do not yet know that they have diabetes. I'm asking that you not let this month go by without mentioning these websites, so others can learn the warning signs of diabetes. The American Diabetes Foundation is at www.diabetes.org and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation is at www.JDRF.org.
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