When I was a teenager (don’t laugh, it happened), my primary worries were sports, girls, academics, and sports. My toughest management decisions centered around which socks to wear for the game and whether or not I was getting an “A” on my next test. Unfortunately, my daughter is not having a similar experience. Her life revolves around managing and monitoring her blood sugar, thyroid levels, and gluten-free diet. At 16, I thought sugar in the blood came from drinking too much Dr. Pepper and I had no idea what a thyroid was or that gluten even existed.
I am proud of my daughter. Despite the curve ball she has been unexpectedly pitched, she is still in there hitting (okay, had to put in the baseball metaphor – sports is still in my blood). After nearly two years, she has mastered more about managing her physical health than I have in more than 40 years. The complexities are numerous (e.g. calculating carbohydrates and insulin ratios, monitoring blood sugar levels, anticipating activity level vs. insulin needs, reading labels on everything you plan to eat).
Here are some facts about Type 1 juvenile diabetes from a recent article on Galesburg.com:
More than 15,000 U.S. children are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes each year – about 40 children a day. Nationwide, as many as 3 million Americans may have the disease, according to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which notes that it is the most costly chronic disease, accounting for $174 billion in healthcare costs in 2007. Many millions more – nearly 24 million – have Type 2 diabetes, a metabolic disorder often linked to obesity.
Unlike Type 2 diabetes, Type 1 is an autoimmune disorder. The pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that allows people to convert food into energy. While taking insulin shots allows people with Type 1 diabetes to live, it doesn’t prevent the eventual and devastating effects, including possible kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, amputations, heart attacks, stroke and pregnancy complications.
Life expectancy for people with diabetes is shortened by seven to 10 years, and the risk of death is about two times greater than that of people without the disease.
Like the mother in the above article, I have to believe that a cure will be found for my daughter.