When my brother AJ was a teenager, he wanted to buy a new guitar. Not just ANY guitar, an expensive one. He counted the earnings from his part-time job, earned money doing odd jobs, and still came up short. When all else failed, he suggested selling his pancreas on the black market! That may sound hubris and odd to anyone who is NOT a teenager, or Type 1, but his pancreas does not work. See, he has Type 1 Diabetes, and only a cure will make the difference.
Today, AJ turns 25 years old. When he was diagnosed with T1D in 2003, experts believed there would be a cure by the time he was in his late 20s. Now that he is officially at the midpoint, and there is not a cure in sight, fighting harder is my family’s only choice.
Ten years ago, AJ, an eagle scout, was at camp for a week in the wilderness. On the second day, he became violently ill while replenishing his fluids with Gatorade. By Saturday morning, when he came home, he had physically dropped over 20 lbs. YES, 20 lbs. In the middle of the night, he was so sick and his heart was beating so hard that he told my parents he thought he was dying. Living in the country, they rushed him to the hospital. Upon arrival he had lost vision and could not walk on his own. When his blood sugar was 800 mg/dL (normal is 90-130mg/dL0) and his blood pressure was severe, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. At 5’8, he was 88 lbs.
That was the beginning. His week-long stay in ICU included IVs, needle sticks, finger pokes, blood sugar measuring, and a completely new eating lifestyle. As a teenager, his active endocrine system produced emotional highs and lows while coping with the physical effects of T1D as well as the emotional impact. While getting his blood sugar under control, he would become very sick for hours. If his sugar was low in the morning, he would not wake up…which extended the time he had gone without eating and compounded the problem. He had to find his way to manage the disease and live like a teenager. The worst part of it however, was the realization that his dream of becoming an officer in the U.S. Navy was now not possible.
My dream is that researchers will find a cure for T1D before it is too late for AJ’s kidneys and heart. My great great grandmother died from T1D in 1913, when not a lot was known about the disease, so we have come a long way. One of my favorite nonprofits, JDRF (formerly Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) sponsors events all over the world to raise money for researching a cure. My local chapter has volunteer opportunities in my area, from working in their office or on an event to serving on the board and soliciting donations. And there are many more ways ANYONE can make a difference.
Are YOU supporting a cause close to your heart? Please share. Make YOUR difference in the World…Volunteer!
Thank you, Shannon Nordmeyer for sharing your personal video about T1D!