Everyday Hero Award: Meet Ariel Aufgang

in , , , , ,

Ariel was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in adulthood and is passionate about helping kids manage this life-changing disease. Since becoming involved with JDRF, he and his wife, Sara, have been active members of the Rockland County Advisory Committee and hope to engage more community members of all ages. One of the ways they hope to engage more peers is by getting involved with JDRF NJ Metro & Rockland County Chapter’s annual casino themed event, All in For our Heroes. We are so grateful to have Ariel’s support in the many ways he and his family choose to help!


What is your T1D story?

Many years before becoming T1D myself, I had two college friends who were diabetics since childhood.  My roommate was on traditional insulin injection therapy and had frequent lows. There were multiple times during our years at school that he went so low that we had to help him as he convulsed by putting juice in his mouth.  My other friend was on a pump and was able to live a seemingly regular life of school, sports and fun.

Upon my own diagnosis 13 years later one of my first calls was to my old friend who was on the pump during school. We discussed his experience with his treatment decisions. This was very helpful for me as I adjusted to my new life. Having had friends with T1D was very helpful later in life it turned out.

My symptoms started with weight loss, frequent bathroom trips and thirst. After a visit to my primary doctor he discovered that my blood sugar was high. Later that day I got a call from him to tell me that my blood test showed signs of T1D.  This was a Friday evening, he prescribed metformin and told me to call him Monday.  I knew something wasn’t right so I called a family friend who is an Endocrinologist. He prescribed a glucose meter to make sure I wasn’t in dangerous BG level territory and saw me the next morning when he put me on insulin treatment and just like that, my new life started. It wasn’t for another two months that my PCP called me to check in. Needless to say, I never went back to him.

The next two years were complicated but I made sure to not miss a beat professionally or personally. I swept all the emotions of my diagnosis under the rug and simply added my diabetes maintenance in to my daily to-do list. It was after two years that everything boiled over and I reached a breaking point. I put myself in therapy for weekly sessions with a mental health counselor. This has become a cornerstone of my treatment helping me to manage my diabetes and all of my other responsibilities.

How did you get connected to JDRF?

My wife was on the JDRF email list when last year she got notification of a meeting of the Rockland County Advisory Committee. The meeting was just up the street from our house so attending was easy.  Meeting the parents of young T1D kids and some of the kids themselves, I knew I had to help however possible.

Since attending that meeting, you and your wife Sara, have been active members of the Rockland County Advisory Committee. Where do you see the future of this committee?

In Rockland, each year more & more young adults, recent grads and young families are moving to the county after college rather than moving to the city and it’s immediately surrounding areas.  The opportunities lie in getting this generation more involved in addition to the parents of younger kids with T1D. A thriving peer support system should be the goal, in addition to fundraising for research efforts.

You were recently trained as a JDRF Outreach Volunteer. How has the experience been so far?

The training made me feel very prepared for any questions that might come up. After the training it was clearer to me that I have a desire to help newly diagnosed people adjust. I have only had a couple of conversations with my matches so far but I hope that I am able to help them the more we get to know each other.

You and your wife, Sara, opened your home to local chapter members and hosted a JDRF Research Update back in September. What was the most interesting thing that you learned?

I was very surprised to learn just how the JDRF is directly involved in the world of medical and technical research.  The medical research staff were very informed with first hand knowledge of advances and possible future treatments.  It was also very gratifying that a first-time participant joined us and he went on to be one of the biggest fundraisers at an event a few weeks later.

You will be attending the “All In For Our Heroes” event on 2/21/19. Tell us what excites you about this fundraising event?

It is always a great idea to do something you like, playing casino games, for the benefit of a cause you love. I hope this event works out and we can raise a lot of money.

How has JDRF impacted your life?

I like the idea of having a group that is fighting day in and day out for a cure to T1D and to support those of us with this affliction. Knowing the JDRF exists gives me some solace in challenging times.

What advice would you give to someone just newly diagnosed?

You may find that people tell you that everything will be ok as if you are on a path to some end where your treatment will be on auto pilot. I think of being diagnosed as a call-to-action. There will not be an autopilot phase, but know that with dedication and hard work you will be fine and can go on to live a perfectly normal life.

What does a cure mean to you?

A cure would be great, but I am very grateful to live in a time and country where proper management can be achieved without major disruption of any other life goals you may have.