diabetes

Pictured, back row, L to R: Kerigan Wesseler, Landon Crites, Jenna Meyer, Ally Gauck and Cole Wagner; Back row, L to R: Haley Simpson, Noah Mack, Taylor Bohman, Jacob Haskamp and Ethan Allen.

Editor's Note: This is the second in a two-part series about area children and their families who live - and thrive - while keeping diabetes in check as they work to prepare for the Fifth Annual Diabetes Carnival this weekend.

Greensburg resident Wendy Bohman understands juvenile Type I diabetes as well as any non-medical person could be expected to. She's lived with it every day for six years - fretted over its blurry-eyed, sugary highs and its lethargic, carbohydrate-depleted lows.

Bohman's nine-year-old daughter, Taylor, was diagnosed with diabetes when she was three. That's why, in 2007, Bohman and two other parents of Type I diabetic students at North Decatur Elementary School - Candi Wesseler and Robin Allen - started the Diabetes Carnival.

On Saturday, the three women will hold their Fifth Annual event.

"We have lots of games at our carnival," Bohman said, and named a substantial list, including: Plinko, a fire away nerf-gun game, a marshmallow slingshot shooter game, ring toss, cornhole, two games based on "The Price is Right," and a dice game. The carnival will feature putt-putt, too.

"We'll also have lots of prizes," Bohman said.

Raffle prizes for this year's carnival will include an iPad and a flat screen TV - among other digitized goodies - and, possibly, Colt's tickets.

"There will be a bake sale, too," Bohman said, "with cookies and cakes and candy. Oh, and we're raffling off a chocalate basket and a cookie bouquet from Where the Cookie Crumbles."

Bohman understands that selling and serving sweets at a Diabetes Carnival seems like a contradiction to many, but welcomes the opportunity to use such misconceptions as teachable moments. In fact, diabetes education is one of the carnival's main functions.

"What many people don't understand," Bohman said, "is that diabetics can eat whatever they want. They don't have to eat any healthier than the rest of us; they just have to closely count their carbs. You have to know how much insulin to adminster and when to administer it."

According to Bohman, each diabetic is different regarding insulin needs and optimal blood-sugar levels.

The key lies in learning to customize insulin dozing and scheduling based on individual needs. It can be tricky, Bohman said, because diabetes is "consistently inconsistent."

The only way to eliminate that inconsistency would be an extreme routine - doing and eating the same things exactly the same way everyday.

Bohman's had plenty of practice in customizing Taylor's diabetic needs.

She understands the disease well enough, in fact, that she sometimes substitutes for the school nurse at North Decatur Elementary and High Schools.

The two schools can certainly use the help, as they have more diabetic students than any other area school.

According to Bohman, there are four students at the elementary school with Type I diabetes and six at the high school. That being the case, the schools have become adept at caring for these students.

Most of them will be attending the carnival and will be assisting Bohman, Wesseler and Allen in dispeling diabetes myths.

For example, NDHS Junior Jenna Meyer plays volleyball, track and basketball. She said many people are surprised she can be so active as a Type I diabetic.

"It affects my mood," she said, "and how I feel. I can't drink Gatorade, but when my blood sugar's under control, I do well; I'm no different from my teammates."

Fortunately for Meyer, her teammates are sensitive to her blood-sugar ups and downs. Her blood sugar often redlines during athletic competition due to the affects of adrenaline and then crashes afterward.

Complicating her diabetes is the fact she's newly diagnosed. She's still in Type 1's "honeymoon phase," wherein the pancreas's last few remaining insulin-producing cells secret limited, sporadic amounts of insulin.

According to Bohman, the honeymoon phase makes Type 1 even trickier, because it can cause wild, unpredictable blood-sugar swings, as the pancreas randomly tries to think for itself.

Regardless, Meyer and the other diabetic students at North Decatur Elementary and High Schools want people to understand that diabetes is a managable disease.

"Some people act like we're terminal," said eighth-grader Landon Crites, "as if we have Lukemia or something."

Meyer readily nodded agreement. "You control diabetes; it doesn't control you."

Crites added, "I'd rather have it [diabetes] than someone else who can't handle it."

Seventh-grader Noah Mack added that he gets weary of people who don't understand diabetes trying to help control his.

"'Oh you're diabetic'," he said, imitating such misguided do-gooders "'you can't have this cake or that cookie.'"

The other students readily agreed and will attend the carnival in the interest of dispeling such myths. All are resigned to eating as many cakes and cookies and candy and to having fun as much as it takes to help people finally understand.

The Fifth Annual Diabetes Carnival will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 29, at the New Point Community Building. For more information, contact Wendy Bohman at 662-0796.

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Contact: robert.cox@greensburgdailynews.com or 812-663-3111 x7011.

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