July 18, 2005

The Walk To Cure Diabetes

{This post will stay at the top of the page all week long. Yep. I'm pulling a guilt trip on you. And it won't be over with until next Monday.}

Walk to Cure Diabetes

This, my devoted Cake Eater readers, is my nephew, James.


James, despite the red hair and all that it implies in regards to temper, is a normal six-year-old, and some of my readers who were around last summer might remember him. He lives down in Omaha with his mom(my sister), his dad and his two siblings, Colin and Maggie. As he has mastered the joy and wonder that is kindergarten, he will be starting first grade in the fall. James is a wonderful kid. He has a vibrant imagination, a memorable personality, and is a great kid, he still, however, gets into trouble like any other six-year-old. The red hair does play a part in this, I'm sure. He likes toys; running around the neighborhood and wreaking havoc with his friends; he has a particular fasciantion with construction equipment when they pass an earth mover or a crane when they're in the car; and he's got plenty of opinions about the way the world works and just what his place is in all the hubbub. He might smack his little sister when she gets in his way (never fear: Maggie will strike back if the situation calls for it) but he's also very protective of her as well. His older brother might drive him insane at times, producing some very windy, very adult-like sighs of discontent out of James, but he loves him, too. To us, his family, he's a very normal kid. All except for one thing that makes him not quite so normal.

James is a Type I Diabetic. And has been since a week past his third birthday.

I know everyone hears a lot on the news about "diabetics" and how this disease is rapidly becoming a health crisis for this nation. Well, that's somewhat accurate, but they're talking about Type II diabetics, not Type I, or what is more commonly known as juvenile diabetes. The destination is the same---the shutting down of the pancreas, which produces insulin---but the path for Type I diabetics is different than that of Type II sufferers. If you need a refresher biology lesson, you need insulin to break down the food you eat into energy. When your pancreas shuts down and doesn't produce insulin any longer, you can eat and eat and eat, but still not have the energy you need to live. Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. While the causes of this process are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Type I diabetes strikes its victims---who can be either children, or adults up to the age of forty---suddenly, making them dependent upon injected or pumped insulin for life. While it's great that insulin is available, and that with proper care Type I diabetics can live long, productive lives, injecting insulin to pick up where your pancreas left off isn't necessarily a great thing, either. There is the constant threat of devastating complications such as kidney failure, blindness, amputations and nerve damage.

This is what James has to deal with for the rest of his life. Since he's very young, I don't think he remembers a time when he didn't have to have his finger pricked to check his blood sugar, or recieve a shot of insulin before he eats. My sister does the math every year: as of this year he's had at least 4000 shots and over 7056 finger pricks. (Think about that the next time you go to the doctor's office and whine about how much those finger pricks sting.) I'm not sure he remembers the time when he could eat anything he wanted, whenever he wanted. His life, while normal in so many ways, is not normal when it comes to this disease. Meals are on a schedule and it's one they must be strict about. Not only must he eat his meals at a certain time, he must also eat snacks on a regular routine as well. This, of course, says nothing of the constant management required of my sister and brother-in-law to make sure James' blood sugar remains constant. They're the ones who must prick his finger several times a day. Based on the information they receive from these finger pricks, they must plan meals and snacks based on what he needs in terms of carb intake to keep said blood sugar at the proscribed levels. This means ignoring the ice cream man when he rings his bell. This means handing over his Halloween candy and receiving a shiny, new toy in return. While his parents have done a fabulous job of taking up where his pancreas left off, it's still not the ideal situation, which would be a life where James would not have to deal with any of this. A life where his pancreas worked and he could snarf candy at any moment in time, like any other kid.

While there are many downsides to juvenile diabetes, a major upside is that wiping this disease out of existence is extremely attainable. It's possible that, because of the fine work done by many scientists, there might be a day in the future that James will not have to prick his finger or inject himself with insulin. There might be a day in the future when James' body will be able to break down his food into the energy he needs to run it without any outside intervention. There might be a day in the future when he would be able to snarf a Snickers any time he wants to.

And that is why I'm pontificating at length today. Because I want him to never have to deal with finger pricks and shots and tightly scheduled mealtimes ever again. I want his body to work the way it should. But most of all, I want him to be able to eat a Snickers any time he wants to.

To work toward this end, James, his family and friends will group together, line up under the banner of "James' Jaywalkers," and will participate in Omaha's Walk To Cure Diabetes on August 6, 2005. From today until next Monday, July 18th, the Cake Eater Chronicles is sponsoring the official RAISE MOOLAH FOR JAMES' WALK WEEK. James' Jaywalkers is looking to raise $4000 this year. Thanks to some very generous donations from my devoted Cake Eater Readers I would like to help the team not only meet that goal, but to exceed it. We raised a few hundred dollars last year with the help of my devoted Cake Eater Readers, and I think we can do even better this year.

I know there are a lot of worthy causes out there. God only knows a lot of people need a lot of help in this world, but if you're inspired to help James beat this thing, you can go here and donate what you can. No amount is too small and every cent is appreciated more than you know. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, who sponsors the walk, is a wonderful foundation and if you're worried about the money raised going to support fat-cat administrators, instead of toward a cure, you should know that you have no need to fear: 80% of every donation made to JDRF goes toward research to find a cure.

We're grateful for any donation you should choose to make, and if you can't make a donation because times are tough, well, that's fine too. We appreciate any support you can offer.

In the immortal words of the Bartles and James' guys: I thank you for your support.

UPDATE: See where we're at as of Thursday, July 14th.

Posted by Kathy at July 18, 2005 11:20 AM | TrackBack

A most worthy cause, lady.

My best to James.

; )

Posted by: Christina at July 11, 2005 05:04 PM

Best wishes for James and his family.
I know you have probably heard it before but I can't help but urge you to look into the benifits of an insuln pump. Unwanted snacktimes and strict mealtimes will be in the past. Its the closest thing to a working pancreas. Even 3 year olds have them. http://minimed.com/

Posted by: jane at July 12, 2005 10:44 PM

[Comment deleted.]

Posted by: at July 14, 2005 11:19 AM

Ok everyone, look at the comment above this one and pay attention. This joker, "in the interest of helping" has directed you to a site specifically with a URL that does nothing but ensure that if you fall for the scam on that site, he'll get paid.

***** parasite. {Foul language removed by moderator}

I don't want Kath to remove the comment, I want it there in all it's glaring putrescence so that everyone can see what a tool Mr. Ellis is, and how stupid he believes you are.

Mr. Ellis, leave your personal grab for riches by using these sham MLM structures far, far away from my nephew James. You screw with me on the Internet and I guarantee you that tax avoidance will be the least of your worries.

Posted by: MRN aka "The Husband" at July 15, 2005 08:33 AM

Good luck with the Diabetes walk. I'm an EMT for a volunteer rescue squad, and I've run a few diabetic emergency calls (fortunately no pediatric ones) and I've seen firsthand that the condition is serious business. Your nephew and his parents have my prayers.

Posted by: KMR at July 15, 2005 08:40 PM