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The Reality of Type 1 Diabetes

By Lisa Figueiredo

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control. Over 40,000 people are diagnosed with Type I Diabetes each year in the United States.

According to the American Diabetes Association, (ADA), About 208,000 Americans under age 20 are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes. In 2008 through 2009, the annual incidence of diagnosed diabetes in youth was estimated at 18,436 children with Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile Diabetes. Only 5% of people with diabetes have this form of the disease. In Type 1 Diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. The body breaks down the sugars and starches you eat into a simple sugar called glucose, which it uses for energy. Insulin is a hormone that the body needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body.

For moms of diabetic children the statistic are a reality they struggle with on a daily basis in their everyday lives.

For one South Jersey mom, Elise Cooney, the day begins much like other parents waking her 7-year old daughter up for school. Only she wakes her daughter up while checking her sugar and asking her what she wants for breakfast. She uses a Dexcom, a machine that helps monitor and track glucose levels to calibrate her sugar, a process she does 2-3 times a day. After doing that she carefully measures the foods by carbohydrate count, a process she has down to a science.

Sometimes her daughter complains half way through her meal that she’s full, or her stomach hurts. Now, she has to account for the lost carbs, a tedious process.

“That is the hard part, trying to coax a child to eat when she doesn't want to eat anymore, or giving her juice or milk to make up for the carbs that she was already dosed for,” said Cooney.

In the hustle and bustle of a morning rush, Cooney then carefully measures food for her daughter’s lunch so that the school nurse will know how many carbohydrates her daughter is eating. Her daughter then chooses from list of carefully carb counted items what she wants to eat for lunch. The nurse checks her blood sugar three times throughout the day and if necessary when she feels it is high or low.

With the multitude of activities today’s busy children participate in, soccer, art, clubs, music, maintaining blood sugar is a constant struggle. “You always have to constantly wonder if her blood sugar is going to go low. Or even if it doesn't go low now, she has delayed lows later in the evening, usually for my daughter it is around 9-11pm at night, right after she has fallen asleep and we are trying to wake her up from being low, which is extremely hard, said Cooney.

Symptoms to look for

Recognizing the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes can be crucial in the treatment and care of the patient. Symptoms may occur suddenly and can include:

-Extreme thirst
-Frequent urination/bed wetting
-Drowsiness or lethargy
-Increased appetite
-Sudden weight loss
-Sudden vision changes
-Sugar in the urine
-Fruity, sweet or wine-like odor on breath
-Heavy or labored breathing
-Stupor or unconsciousness


For Cooney the strong support of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) has given her strength and support to better cope with the disease. As a mother of a diabetic child, Cooney’s advice to other mothers is to, “Take it one day at a time. It's important to find other parents in the area that have children with diabetes, it has been therapeutic talking to other mothers about our children with diabetes, and they truly "get it". We have gotten involved with JDRF, we did our first walk during Lauren's birthday weekend in Wildwood this year.  We've met a lot of great people through JDRF,” she said.

Get the Dexcom for your child.  It has already saved Lauren's life once, when she dropped so low and wouldn't have known since it wasn't a time that we'd normally check her and she was already asleep for the night so she couldn't tell us that she felt low.  And sometimes Lauren doesn't feel her lows, so it has alerted us when she was low during the day as well.

Treatment aims at maintaining normal blood sugar levels through regular monitoring, insulin therapy, diet, and exercise. With the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, even young children can learn to manage their condition and live long, healthy lives.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 November 2018 20:56

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