Small Superheroes

Use Knowledge as Power

As most children head back to school this fall with backpacks and lunch boxes in tow, some families will add a few extra items to their school supply lists: insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors, and blood sugar testing strips.

For families of the over 200,000 children living with Type 1 diabetes, going back to school and other common events have to be carefully planned, prepped, and monitored.

While many associate Type 1 diabetes with children (Type 1 was previously called “juvenile” diabetes), the truth is that the disorder affects people of all ages. And, unlike Type 2 diabetes, Type 1 is an auto-immune disorder.

According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, there is no known cause for why Type 1 diabetes occurs in some individuals, although there are theories that the disorder is a result of genetic predisposition and an unknown type of environmental trigger.

A diabetes diagnosis

Type 1 diabetes is a notoriously misdiagnosed disorder, especially in children, because the symptoms can often be masked or waved off as just another part of growing up.

When Carissa and Brad Reed of Bay City noticed that their oldest son, Caleb, was losing weight before he started fifth grade, they chalked it up to his newfound interest in basketball. “Caleb was losing weight and drinking more water,” explains Carissa Reed, a teaching assistant, “but all the signs lined up with what he was doing in his life.”

When the couple’s oldest daughter, Mackenzie, also started losing weight at age 13, diabetes “was not forefront” in their mind, says Reed. “She was my first girl,” Reed continues. “I just chalked it up to her growing.”

For children who are even younger, like Matt and Kelly Jeffrey’s son, Jacob, who was diagnosed at only 3 years old, symptoms of diabetes may not be obvious at first. As Jacob struggled with various health concerns, the Jeffreys searched for answers from their doctor with no results. Symptoms such as frequent urination and occasional vomiting were written off as a “weak stomach” or normal potty-training struggles.

“He was misdiagnosed for two months before we finally discovered he had diabetes,” explains Kelly Jeffrey. Then, like the Reeds, the Jeffreys were surprised when another child, this time their oldest daughter, Sabrina, was also diagnosed with diabetes when she was 13 years old. “She had lost some weight,” Jeffrey explains. “I remember her weight about three weeks before she was diagnosed; she was doing a pageant, and her dress was a lot bigger.”

When her then 2-year-old daughter, Isabelle, began crying when using the restroom, Rashelle Hoffman, a registered nurse at McLaren Bay Region, decided to take her daughter into the doctor’s office. Fully expecting to be told that Isabelle had a urinary tract infection, Hoffman was instead shocked when her daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Coping with diabetes

The most common reaction that Danielle Schmidt, a registered dietitian with St. Mary’s of Michigan Medical Center-Saginaw, sees in newly diagnosed families is confusion. “They tend to ask me questions like, ‘How did this happen?’” Schmidt describes. “Families wonder if it’s something they did.”

Adjusting to a new normal of living with diabetes requires understanding family dynamics, exploring eating habits and lifestyle prior to the diagnosis, and working with trained health care professionals to integrate the two. Parents can help manage their children’s diabetes more effectively by working with a dietitian, collaborating with trained school staff, and using various resources and tools.

Isabelle, for instance, has an insulin pump, along with a continuous glucose monitor and an iPhone that will transmit her blood sugar levels to her mother’s cellphone. At any time, Hoffman can pull out her phone and see a live reading of her daughter’s skin glucose reading. The pump has made a huge difference in managing her daughter’s diabetes. “It’s so much better for her,” Hoffman says. “It gives her so much more flexibility with her eating.”

The key to moving forward after a diabetes diagnosis, says Schmidt, is remembering that diabetes is not all about the food individuals may choose to eat but instead is about how much of a certain food is eaten and when. “All foods can be worked into a meal plan,” she explains. People with Type 1 diabetes can still enjoy special treats and even birthday cakes, although Schmidt encourages “non-food” family celebrations as a healthy choice.

The biggest change in living with diabetes is often the amount of work that everyday tasks, such as simply eating dinner, can be. Family vacations or trips take on a whole new level of preparation. “We have a bag with us at all times,” explains Hoffman. “It has ketone strips, a glucose emergency shot, insulin, etc. It’s about being very prepared all of the time. Every single thing has to be monitored.”

A new normal

Although diabetes takes intense monitoring and preparation, each of the families living with the disorder expressed that it was very important for them to never view diabetes as something that would hold their children back or interfere with their children living normal lives.

“He’s a pretty typical boy,” says Matt Jeffrey of his son, Jacob. “He plays a lot of basketball, he runs track and field, and he has friends; he lives a pretty normal life other than he’s on an insulin pump that needs to be monitored and has to check his glucose levels frequently.”

Reed’s son, Caleb, graduated third in his class from Bay City Central where he played football and was dually enrolled in college classes. Caleb is now attending his first year at Saginaw Valley State University as an accounting major. “He did not let diabetes deter him,” says Reed.

For Hoffman, her main goal has always been to ensure that her daughter, Isabelle, feels normal. “I don’t ever want to tell her, ‘No, we can’t do that because you have diabetes,’” she explains.

Reed notes that there is “a lot of fear” associated with diabetes. Her son’s friends, for instance, were worried that he was going to die at school, and some families even refused to have him come to play. But, staying “positive and faithful” has kept her family focused, says Reed. “I tell my children, ‘You still get to be exactly who you are, you can still do every single thing you did before, and you can still eat every single thing you did before; you just have to be more aware of what it does.’”

“It did not change my children’s lives at all,” she goes on to say. “It’s a hard burden to carry, but we could be carrying so much more.”

Do you know the Signs of Type 1 Diabetes?

Unfortunately, according to the latest research of Type 1 diabetes, the disorder does seem to be on the rise among young people in America. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health reported a 23 percent increase in Type 1 diabetes between 2001 and 2009.

According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), there are currently 1.25 million Americans living with Type 1 diabetes, and 40,000 people are diagnosed each year. By 2050, it is predicted that those numbers will rise to 5 million people, including nearly 600,000 children under the age of 20.

With those statistics, it is important to know the signs and symptoms to be on the look out for in your own children. According to the JDRF, some of the most common symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include:

  • 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

Behavioral changes in children could also signal Type 1 diabetes. Rashelle Hoffman describes how she used to call her daughter her “little drama queen” because of Isabelle’s seemingly unprompted meltdowns before the diagnosis. Now, the family suspects that the frequent severe mood swings were actually a result of unstable blood sugar. After about two weeks of regular insulin, Isabelle’s mood swings went away. “She has more even-keeled behavior now,” Hoffman explains.


Use Knowledge as Power

As most children head back to school this fall with backpacks and lunch boxes in tow, some families will add a few extra items to their school supply lists: insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors, and blood sugar testing strips.

For families of the over 200,000 children living with Type 1 diabetes, going back to school and other common events have to be carefully planned, prepped, and monitored.

While many associate Type 1 diabetes with children (Type 1 was previously called “juvenile” diabetes), the truth is that the disorder affects people of all ages. And, unlike Type 2 diabetes, Type 1 is an auto-immune disorder.

According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, there is no known cause for why Type 1 diabetes occurs in some individuals, although there are theories that the disorder is a result of genetic predisposition and an unknown type of environmental trigger.

A diabetes diagnosis

Type 1 diabetes is a notoriously misdiagnosed disorder, especially in children, because the symptoms can often be masked or waved off as just another part of growing up.

When Carissa and Brad Reed of Bay City noticed that their oldest son, Caleb, was losing weight before he started fifth grade, they chalked it up to his newfound interest in basketball. “Caleb was losing weight and drinking more water,” explains Carissa Reed, a teaching assistant, “but all the signs lined up with what he was doing in his life.”

When the couple’s oldest daughter, Mackenzie, also started losing weight at age 13, diabetes “was not forefront” in their mind, says Reed. “She was my first girl,” Reed continues. “I just chalked it up to her growing.”

For children who are even younger, like Matt and Kelly Jeffrey’s son, Jacob, who was diagnosed at only 3 years old, symptoms of diabetes may not be obvious at first. As Jacob struggled with various health concerns, the Jeffreys searched for answers from their doctor with no results. Symptoms such as frequent urination and occasional vomiting were written off as a “weak stomach” or normal potty-training struggles.

“He was misdiagnosed for two months before we finally discovered he had diabetes,” explains Kelly Jeffrey. Then, like the Reeds, the Jeffreys were surprised when another child, this time their oldest daughter, Sabrina, was also diagnosed with diabetes when she was 13 years old. “She had lost some weight,” Jeffrey explains. “I remember her weight about three weeks before she was diagnosed; she was doing a pageant, and her dress was a lot bigger.”

When her then 2-year-old daughter, Isabelle, began crying when using the restroom, Rashelle Hoffman, a registered nurse at McLaren Bay Region, decided to take her daughter into the doctor’s office. Fully expecting to be told that Isabelle had a urinary tract infection, Hoffman was instead shocked when her daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Coping with diabetes

The most common reaction that Danielle Schmidt, a registered dietitian with St. Mary’s of Michigan Medical Center-Saginaw, sees in newly diagnosed families is confusion. “They tend to ask me questions like, ‘How did this happen?’” Schmidt describes. “Families wonder if it’s something they did.”

Adjusting to a new normal of living with diabetes requires understanding family dynamics, exploring eating habits and lifestyle prior to the diagnosis, and working with trained health care professionals to integrate the two. Parents can help manage their children’s diabetes more effectively by working with a dietitian, collaborating with trained school staff, and using various resources and tools.

Isabelle, for instance, has an insulin pump, along with a continuous glucose monitor and an iPhone that will transmit her blood sugar levels to her mother’s cellphone. At any time, Hoffman can pull out her phone and see a live reading of her daughter’s skin glucose reading. The pump has made a huge difference in managing her daughter’s diabetes. “It’s so much better for her,” Hoffman says. “It gives her so much more flexibility with her eating.”

The key to moving forward after a diabetes diagnosis, says Schmidt, is remembering that diabetes is not all about the food individuals may choose to eat but instead is about how much of a certain food is eaten and when. “All foods can be worked into a meal plan,” she explains. People with Type 1 diabetes can still enjoy special treats and even birthday cakes, although Schmidt encourages “non-food” family celebrations as a healthy choice.

The biggest change in living with diabetes is often the amount of work that everyday tasks, such as simply eating dinner, can be. Family vacations or trips take on a whole new level of preparation. “We have a bag with us at all times,” explains Hoffman. “It has ketone strips, a glucose emergency shot, insulin, etc. It’s about being very prepared all of the time. Every single thing has to be monitored.”

A new normal

Although diabetes takes intense monitoring and preparation, each of the families living with the disorder expressed that it was very important for them to never view diabetes as something that would hold their children back or interfere with their children living normal lives.

“He’s a pretty typical boy,” says Matt Jeffrey of his son, Jacob. “He plays a lot of basketball, he runs track and field, and he has friends; he lives a pretty normal life other than he’s on an insulin pump that needs to be monitored and has to check his glucose levels frequently.”

Reed’s son, Caleb, graduated third in his class from Bay City Central where he played football and was dually enrolled in college classes. Caleb is now attending his first year at Saginaw Valley State University as an accounting major. “He did not let diabetes deter him,” says Reed.

For Hoffman, her main goal has always been to ensure that her daughter, Isabelle, feels normal. “I don’t ever want to tell her, ‘No, we can’t do that because you have diabetes,’” she explains.

Reed notes that there is “a lot of fear” associated with diabetes. Her son’s friends, for instance, were worried that he was going to die at school, and some families even refused to have him come to play. But, staying “positive and faithful” has kept her family focused, says Reed. “I tell my children, ‘You still get to be exactly who you are, you can still do every single thing you did before, and you can still eat every single thing you did before; you just have to be more aware of what it does.’”

“It did not change my children’s lives at all,” she goes on to say. “It’s a hard burden to carry, but we could be carrying so much more.”

Do you know the Signs of Type 1 Diabetes?

Unfortunately, according to the latest research of Type 1 diabetes, the disorder does seem to be on the rise among young people in America. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health reported a 23 percent increase in Type 1 diabetes between 2001 and 2009.

According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), there are currently 1.25 million Americans living with Type 1 diabetes, and 40,000 people are diagnosed each year. By 2050, it is predicted that those numbers will rise to 5 million people, including nearly 600,000 children under the age of 20.

With those statistics, it is important to know the signs and symptoms to be on the look out for in your own children. According to the JDRF, some of the most common symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include:

  • 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

Behavioral changes in children could also signal Type 1 diabetes. Rashelle Hoffman describes how she used to call her daughter her “little drama queen” because of Isabelle’s seemingly unprompted meltdowns before the diagnosis. Now, the family suspects that the frequent severe mood swings were actually a result of unstable blood sugar. After about two weeks of regular insulin, Isabelle’s mood swings went away. “She has more even-keeled behavior now,” Hoffman explains.

Related

Phase 2 of Bottle, Can Returns Starts Oct. 5

The Michigan Department of Treasury is beginning Phase 2 of bottle and can returns Oct. 5.

Shaping Young Lives

Rwaida Baz Bates has been that inspirational person for countless children in the Saginaw Public School District for …

A Walk to End Alzheimer’s

The vision of the Alzheimer’s Association is “a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.” But that vision ha…

Best of Great Lakes Bay: Farmers Market Fare

A look at some of our readers favorite items found at local farmers markets.

Classroom Chic: Back-to-School Fashion

The new school year has begun. Even though this school year may look very different than previous years, you can stil…

Connect

Contact

517.203.3333

221 W. Saginaw St.
Lansing MI, 48933

All Rights Reserved Great Lakes Bay Business and Lifestyle Magazine