For the sixth year, Decatur County’s Children with Diabetes Support Group will host the Diabetes “Carnival for a Cure,” from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 2, at the New Point Community Building.
Greensburg residents Wendy Bohman, Candi Wesseler and Robin Allen, all parents of North Decatur students with Type 1 Diabetes, run the support group and organize the carnival.
To publicize the upcoming carnival, Bohman and Wesseler, along with eight of the nine Type 1 Diabetes sufferers who attend North Decatur schools — ranging from elementary to high school age — appeared on WTRE radio Thursday morning.
The kids took questions regarding life with Type 1 diabetes and about the upcoming carnival.
Some of the kids have been living with the disease for a relatively short period of time (NDHS Senior Jenna Meyer was diagnosed June 1, 2010), while others have dealt with it for several years (At around seven years since diagnosis, Bohman’s daughter, Taylor, 10, has suffered from the disease the longest among the group).
As the group took questions from on-air host Emily Verseman, several commonalities became apparent in their dealings with type 1 diabetes.
They agreed, for instance, that their peers in school hold several misconceptions about the disease.
NDHS freshman Landon Crites, who was diagnosed at age 12, bemoaned the perception among classmates that he’s “lucky,” because he gets to eat in class anytime he wants.
Crites rolled his eyes and shook his head as he explained, “Some of my friends say things like, ‘the best part about being a diabetic is that you get to eat in class,’ but it’s not worth it.”
Crites was adamant that, given the choice, he would gladly trade the “privilege” of eating in class for being diabetes free. Such a mindset among peers, he agreed, points to a severe lack of understanding about the disease, it’s long-term health consequences and the severe responsibilities it entails.
North Decatur Junior High student Kerigan Wessler said she hates constantly being asked if it’s okay to eat whatever she’s about to put in her mouth.
“It drives me nuts,” she said. “What they don’t understand is I can eat anything they can eat, but I have to keep count of how many carbohydrates I eat.”
Said Robin Allen, whose son, Ethan, has type 1 diabetes, “These kids have to have insulin, no matter what they eat.”
The number of carbohydrates is the most important consideration for a diabetic, Bohman clarified. Type 1 diabetics must be certain their insulin doses are appropriate for the amount of carbs and sugars they consume, because their pancreases have shut down and can no longer produce insulin of its own.
“Type I diabetes,” she explained, “is a genetic, autoimmune disorder. The immune system attacks itself and shuts down the pancreas’ ability to produce and regulate insulin.”
In that way, type 1 is different from type 2 in that diet and exercise have no bearing on acquiring the disease.
In the case of the nine North Decatur students, several of them manage their disease through the use of an insulin pump.
Bohman explained that the pump provides a huge advantage in that it eliminates the need for daily insulin shots.
Meyer exhibited her pump, showing the spot in her abdomen where the device’s intravenous delivery needle is inserted. A small tube extends from the needle, leading to the device’s small, rectangular delivery unit and insulin gauge, which Meyer carries on her belt.
“With these pumps,” Bohman said, “they don’t have to take 5 daily shots of insulin. Instead, they change the pump once every three days. It makes a difference, but some people think diabetics don’t have to do anything after they get the pump; that’s far from true.”
Crites and the others agreed that taking care of themselves and managing their disease is a daily, life-or-death proposition.
In describing their reactions to low-sugar levels — which each of them has battled — the students’ answers included “shakiness, weakness, dizziness, hunger and sweatiness.”
Each of them also described scary incidents wherein their blood-sugar levels had dropped to dangerous, even life-threatening levels. A few had even wound up in the emergency room.
Crites and Meyers described their experiences in playing high school basketball as diabetics. Their regular routines include keeping close track of their numbers before, during and after a game.
Meyer, who’s received a scholarship to play basketball for Georgetown University in Kentucky next year, said her preparation begins the day before a game.
“I know that everything I eat and how well I maintain my insulin levels the day before a game will have a big impact on me the day of the game,” she said.
Crites agreed that playing sports as a diabetic amounts to just another of the lifestyle changes one has to adapt to as a diabetic.
“[Being a type 1 diabetic] affects everything you do, every aspect of your life,” he said, the others nodding agreement. “You constantly have to track of your numbers.”
The group also noted their academic performance has been affected by blood-sugar fluctuations. Crites went a step further, adding that even his disciplinary record has, at times, been impacted by his highs and lows.
Interestingly, when asked what career paths they want to pursue, a majority of the group said they’re interested in pursuing medical careers.
Crites seemed to sum up the group’s feeling on the matter when he related, “I want to become a pediatric endocrinologist. Most of my doctors don’t have diabetes, so they have trouble really relating to me. Sometimes I feel like they’re just preaching to me, telling me what to do, how to eat and taking their advice from an endocrinology textbook.”
He added, “I was so scared and confused when I was diagnosed, and I’d like to help other kids get through that. Since I have type 1 diabetes, I think I’d make a great advocate for them in helping them understand the disease and that it’s not as scary as it seems at first; but it is a huge responsibility, and they have to understand that, too. Since I have it, I’d be in a unique position in helping them along their journey in living a long, productive life with type 1 diabetes.”
For more information on the 6th Annual Diabetes Carnival for the Cure, call Wendy Bohman at 662-0796.
Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.