Juvenile Diabetes: What One Mom Wishes Everyone Knew

diabetesNovember is National Diabetes Awareness month. Because of the prevalence of the disease, most people are aware of it, but most of us have no idea what it's like to live with it -- especially, when it comes to juvenile diabetes.

My introduction to the disease has come from  a boy my son has been in school with since kindergarten, Gabriel Leeper. Blond, outgoing, and athletic, he only stands out in a crowd of children because of his engaging personality and inquisitive nature. But at the age of 3, he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which forever changed his life and that of his family.

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Though he's fortunate to be equipped with state-of-the-art equipment -- two wireless units that read his blood sugar every 5 minutes, 24 hours a day -- maintaining his health still requires constant vigilance from  his family, teachers, friends, and him.

His parents are amazing and have provided extensive education to the school community, and his mom is constantly at school, checking his monitor and ensuring he's eating the right things. It's a life that's difficult to imagine when you step back and think about it, but they make it seem nearly effortless and give him as "normal" of a childhood as possible. Gabe plays sports, eats ice cream, and goes on play dates just like any other second grader. But the anxiety and amount of work that goes into managing it all surely take a toll.

Every year, more than 15,000 children are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in the country, and each of those families has to figure out how to live their lives with this challenge,  just like the Leepers do. One of the biggest helps to them as they do this is the awareness of others. That's why this month is so important to them -- to raise awareness, raise support, and eventually find a cure for diabetes.

In that regard, I asked Gabe's mom, Michelle, for a few basic things she wished everyone knew about Type 1 Diabetes. Here are her top six:

1. It primarily strikes children.

2. It is an auto immune disease in which the pancreas no longer makes insulin.

3. You NEVER grow out of it.

4. You require multiple injections a day or an insulin pump to act as a pancreas because excess sugar is deadly.

5. You can eat sugar but it's not the best food of choice for a diabetic or a non diabetic.

6. You need insulin for every carbohydrate you eat.

For more information on juvenile diabetes and to learn how you can offer support, visit JDRF.

Does your child have diabetes?


Image via Jill A. Brown/Flickr

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