Charity Spotlight: American Diabetes Association
American Diabetes Association
Mission Statement: We lead the fight against the deadly consequences of diabetes and fight for those affected—by diabetes.
We fund research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes.
We deliver services to hundreds of communities.
We provide objective and credible information.
We give voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes.
In the spring of 2011, our son was winding up his time in middle school. He was nearing the end of eighth grade and was growing non-stop. Over the course of the school year, he’d grown several inches, was eating and drinking everything in sight and became enthusiastic about cross country running. Over a period of weeks, we noticed he was looking taller and leaner, running up our grocery bill and sleeping in every chance he got. We concluded that he was your average fourteen year old boy.
We left home for a week’s vacation and ventured into the mountains of northern Idaho to enjoy some time together at a lakefront resort. While there, our son seemed out of sorts. He slept a lot, and didn’t have energy or interest in suggested family activities. Halfway through the trip, he began feeling ill. We assumed he had contracted food poisoning and began treating it as such. By our final night at the resort, he seemed to be perking up once again. The vacation was a bust as far as he was concerned, so we prepared to leave for home the next morning and called it a night.
At about three o’clock in the morning, our world changed forever. Our son woke up extremely ill and nothing we tried to do for him helped. We watched his condition deteriorate rapidly and by sunrise we knew he needed emergency medical attention. Morgan and I put him in our car and drove sixteen miles to the nearest hospital. Along the way, our son had trouble staying alert and coherent. By the time we reached the ER, we didn’t know what to think, but within minutes the diagnosis was made.
His blood glucose reading was nearly 500, and we were told our son had Type 1 Diabetes. Before we could even process this news, other complications arose. He was transferred by helicopter to a larger hospital and admitted to a pediatric ICU. We saw him taken away, and then made the slower journey by car to join him. Once the urgent need to stabilize his condition receded, our family spent a week at the hospital learning how to take care of our son under this new reality.
We learned how to count carbs in the food he received, and how to calculate the proper dosage of insulin to administer for those carbs. We learned how to give him shots of inulin and glucagon and monitored our son as he learned to do the same. We watched our son carefully as the reality of life as a Type 1 diabetic fully settled into his consciousness. We spoke with doctors, nurses and counselors. We took classes and we received resources from the American Diabetes Association, which we held on to tightly as we learned to navigate along this new path. Without this assistance from the ADA, we would have felt lost and uneasy about what to do.
When our son was able to leave the hospital and we all returned home, it felt a bit like becoming a parent all over again. He needed to put on weight after having lost essential body fat over a period of months leading up to his diagnosis. Our son had to be sure to eat every few hours in order to help regulate his blood sugars. We were all up in the middle of the night to make sure his blood glucose readings were not dropping too low as a result of his insulin dosages. We had to educate our family and friends on exactly what it means to be a Type 1 diabetic and make sure they knew what signs to look for to help identify when his blood sugar might be running too low or too high.
Two and a half years later, we have all found our way again. Our son manages his own care as much as possible and he’s inspired us all with his determination and commitment to live his life and thrive despite the condition. Although some days are better than others, he rarely complains about the constant routine of finger pokes, the numerous daily shots of insulin, the relentless monitoring of his carbs at every meal and snack, and the inevitable moments when his blood glucose falls too low or runs a bit too high, wreaking temporary havoc on his body.
As parents, there is little doubt that the preparation and education we received from the American Diabetes Association and the medical community has played a vital role in this critical time of transition. Now that we have learned how to manage our day to day lives with diabetes, we look to the ADA (and other organizations with the same mission) to develop a cure for our son’s condition. It is generally believed this will happen during his lifetime.
Type 1 diabetes is not an illness caused by eating too much sugar. Our son didn’t become diabetic because of his lifestyle or eating habits. It is a complicated autoimmune condition that renders the pancreas incapable of producing insulin. The condition is partially genetic and partially environmental. Although the medical community is still trying to fully understand the triggers of Type 1 diabetes, it is clear that many factors have to fall into place in order for the immune system to target the beta cells in the pancreas for destruction. In order for our son to stop injecting himself with insulin several times a day for the remainder of his life, doctors and researchers will need to find a way to regenerate the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin naturally.
In the months since our son’s diagnosis, we have heard some very encouraging news in this field, and feel strongly that continued support of the American Diabetes Association will not only benefit our son in the long run, but will also help the 300 million people worldwide diagnosed with the same condition.
November is the month of our son’s birth. It is also the international observation of Diabetes Awareness Month. Chances are very good that you know someone in your life that has been diagnosed with diabetes. Take a few moments to think about how there is never a remission from this condition. There are no days off from diabetes, and in the long run complications from this condition take their toll on the body.
Please take the time to remember those in your life who deal with diabetes every day, and honor them this month by supporting your local diabetes association.
Thank you and Take Care,
Jennifer and Morgan