Written by Kate DuHadway, published to Lansing State Journal on July 31, 2015.
It started when Amy Monroe’s daughter Rachel, who was 9 years old at the time, couldn’t seem to get enough to drink. She felt sick and irritable.
“She was really cranky,” Monroe, who lives in Stockbridge, said. “She would cry at the drop of a hat.”
Three days after Rachel first showed symptoms, Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan confirmed what her mother suspected: It was Type 1 diabetes. Rachel’s blood sugar levels were at life-threatening levels — so high they were off the charts.
That was over four years ago. Now Rachel is an independent 14-year-old, about to enter high school this fall. Today, she’ll walk in the JDRF’s One Walk at Michigan State University to raise money and awareness for Type 1 diabetes research.
Unlike the more common Type 2 diabetes, Type 1 diabetes is not caused by diet or lifestyle choices, according to the JDRF. It can strike anyone at any age, from newborns to adults, and although genetics may be a factor, doctors don’t know exactly what causes or triggers it the disease. There is no cure.
In people with Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops producing insulin, making it impossible to absorb energy from food.
“Insulin is the key that unlocks the cell to let the energy in,” Monroe said. Without this essential hormone, sugar built up in her daughter’s bloodstream. Those high sugar levels, if left untreated, can kill in a matter of hours.
Rachel gives herself insulin shots at least four times per day and tests her own blood sugar levels, Monroe said. One of her family members checks her insulin levels twice per night to make sure her blood sugar doesn’t get too low or too high while she’s sleeping.
“You’re constantly trying to do the job of an internal organ,” said Lisa Klingbiel of Grand Ledge, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age six. Her son Steven was also diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the same age.
“It can really just wear a person out,” Klingbiel said. “You’re not going to outgrow it. It’s not going to get better — you cope with it as best you can.”
Klingbiel said treatment and management of the disease has drastically improved since she was a child and new research is being developed all the time.
That’s where today’s walk for diabetes research comes in. With around 1,500 to 2,000 walkers each year and over $200,000 raised so far, Klingbiel said the event gives people and families who are dealing with Type 1 diabetes hope.
“It may not happen tomorrow, but we’re moving forward,” said Klingbiel, who coordinated volunteers for this year’s walk. “You’re part of something that eventually will make a difference in someone’s life.”
If you go
East Lansing’s JDRF One Walk is Saturday, Aug. 1 from the Rock at the Michigan State University campus. Check in is at 8:30 a.m. and the walk begins at 9:30 a.m. Participants have an option to walk either one mile or three miles, and as an individual or as a team.
The walk is free with a suggested donation. For more information, visit www.JDRF.org.
Diabetes warning signs
- Extreme thirst
- Frequent urination
- Drowsiness or lethargy
- Increased appetite
- Sudden weight loss
- Sudden vision changes
- Sugar in the urine
- Fruity odor on the breath
- Heavy or labored breathing
- Stupor or unconsciousness
Because diabetes warning signs can seem like the flu or another virus, especially in young children, it’s important to always ask for a glucose test. The simple, inexpensive test could save a life.
This article originally appeared in the Lansing State Journal, here.