Keep Up the Spirit for Back to School

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Angie in her Spirit jersey with JDRF President & CEO Derek Rapp.

Angie Jarzyna is very familiar with the difficulties kids with type 1 diabetes (T1D) face while managing the disease at school. A former nurse at an elementary school in New Lenox, Illinois, Angie got involved with JDRF when a mother of one of her students invited her to join their JDRF One Walk® team.  Angie recently took part in her first JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes where—with the help of her supportive coach—she overcame significant pain to finish the 100-mile event.  She says, “Every kid I’ve had at the school with type 1 at some point told me they didn’t want to have it. They’ve all wanted to quit but they didn’t have a choice.” Angie pushed on because she thought “if they can’t quit, I won’t’ quit”—and her strength and determination was rewarded with the JDRF Ride Spirit jersey.

“I am JDRF because T1D still exists. I will continue to be JDRF until the kids that I ride for don’t have to do deal with this disease anymore.”

Before she began working as a school nurse, Angie hadn’t treated any children with T1D. She says that the five students she worked with quickly became her favorite kids.  Angie could feel their frustration when their blood sugar levels were off—but there wasn’t an obvious reason as to why. “Going through day-by-day with them, I always took on their struggles as my own.” Angie also saw how kids would have to miss out on important experiences—like trying out for the track team—because of blood sugar highs and lows.  Although she doesn’t have a direct connection to T1D herself, she says that “those kids at school were my kids during the day.”

“There’s definitely a lot more educating to do and I think that’s what keeps me involved with JDRF.”

Angie did all she could to make sure that her students felt a sense of normalcy. However, sometimes things didn’t always go according to plan. She recalls trying to help one of her students who had significantly low blood sugar, when his teacher sent in three of his classmates so that they could finish a group project.  She says, “I had to explain to the teachers again that if I was with a student for any prolonged period of time it was because we were correcting their blood sugar not because they wanted to get out of class.” Angie wants kids who are returning to school to know that they should never be ashamed to do what they need to manage their T1D.  And, that’s it’s always ok to ask for help. She says, “T1D doesn’t define who you are—it’s just something that you have. Never feel embarrassed or ashamed.”

By Kelly DeSola