When 13-year-old Ethan Rostker spoke at his bar mitzvah earlier this year, he told the congregation about God telling Moses how to build the Tabernacle, which would be the center of Jewish life and prayer as the Israelites prepared to travel in the desert. “God told everyone to donate as their spirit is willing,” he said. “You need people who can make things happen with the material given.”
As a young man living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), Ethan said that his own Tabernacle is a cure for T1D. And JDRF is the community that will help him build it.
Diagnosed in December 2005 when he was just 20 months old, Ethan has overcome many hurdles to become an accomplished student, athlete, and advocate for JDRF. Ethan’s parents, Heather and David Rostker, responded to the challenge of caring for a toddler with T1D by focusing on insulin management, proper nutrition and carb counting, and being on the lookout for symptoms. That included testing his blood sugar overnight – every night – at 3:00 am to ensure he wasn’t going low.
Taking part as a family active in supporting the JDRF Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Chapter also became a priority. Their Ethan’s Allies team first participated in the JDRF One Walk to Cure Diabetes in 2006, and continued through 2014.
By age five, Ethan had transitioned from shots to a pump, and soon discovered a new passion: ice hockey. Over the years he’s progressed from playing select hockey to more advanced travel-team hockey with the Reston Raiders. The schedule is demanding, and living with T1D doesn’t make it any easier.
“T1D and ice hockey can be a challenging combination,” says David. “Practices are high-intensity with little rest, meaning frequent lows. Games are high-adrenaline with very short bursts of high-intensity, which drives blood sugars sky high.” The challenge is keeping Ethan’s numbers in check hours later, when they can be very unpredictable. “Fortunately, he’s worked with many of his coaches for a number of years. They know him and his T1D symptoms – and the difficulties of dealing with low and high blood sugars on the ice.”
Now in eighth grade at Commonwealth Academy in Alexandria, Virginia, Ethan has served as a youth ambassador at the JDRF Hope Gala, and recently met with his congressman to help ensure federal funding for T1D research. And Ethan’s own insulin-delivery device is now becoming the standard – integrating a continuous glucose monitor with a pump. It’s direct result of JDRF’s work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make artificial pancreas guidelines a reality.