Friends United is a grassroots organization that began as a small group of friends with a mission - to help fund research that will significantly improve the lives of people with juvenile diabetes and eliminate the disease through a cure. Current research is very promising, and the realization of our dream of a cure is on the horizon.
We are strictly a volunteer organization, most of us from Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, and many of us personally affected by juvenile diabetes. We remain seriously committed to our mission and are proud of the significant contributions we have made toward funding some of the most cutting-edge research in the field. See "How We Help" for more information on the research we're helping to fund.
LIVING WITH JUVENILE DIABETES
Jesse's mother, Jill, tells the following story of Jesse's life as an active 11-year-old with juvenile diabetes:
Jesse was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age 4. No warnings, no knowledge at all of this autoimmune disease. Life changed dramatically for all of us. Juggling the ups and downs and understanding the ways Jesse's body worked became our number one challenge.
Life almost 7 years later remains the same. As he sits next to me at this moment snarfing down a 30-carb taffy apple, telling me, "Mom, I need more food, I'm still going down, I still feel so low," I worry about this yo-yo of ups and downs. There is no science to managing type 1 diabetes. A low means Jesse needs sugar and carbs so that he doesn't lose consciousness, but there's a balancing act involved. If his numbers get high, he will need to get more insulin. And there's that yo-yo. So now I reach for the crackers - 44 of them equal 19 carbs. I carefully count them out and leave out the broken ones so that it's precise. Now he feels better, and we wait to see if the blood glucose level of 62 will go up to the 100's but not beyond 200. Above 200 has its long-term complications.
That's the microscope of living with diabetes. There are no liberties of grabbing a snack or skipping a meal without understanding its impact on the body. There is an insulin pump connected to Jesse 24/7 which he relies on for survival. Diabetes simply doesn't take a break!
Isabel's mother, Abby, talks about Isabel's diagnosis at 4 years old:
The phrase "life can change in a heartbeat" took on true meaning on July 7th, 2009, for Isabel and our family. Isabel, age 4½, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and her life would never be the same.
It is hard to put into words the tremendous impact diabetes has on an individual, especially a young child. Managing a diabetic child requires day-to-day, 24-hour maintenance. It is a constant thought and impacts not only the diabetic child but the family unit as a whole.
Isabel, like other diabetics, checks her blood sugar throughout the day and takes insulin injections every time she eats. Her carbohydrates must be counted, her activity levels monitored, and timing of her meals is crucial to ensure safe and accurate blood sugar levels. The inevitable thought of what unacceptably high blood sugar levels can do and the complications that can occur weighs heavily on our minds. Conversely, there is always the thought of whether Isabel ate enough to keep her blood sugars at a safe level or if she was too physically active, which could bring her blood sugars too low as well. At her age she is not able to verbalize her "lows," which can be extremely dangerous.
Unlike other children, she cannot just put a piece of food in her mouth without thought. She cannot go out and play without thought. She cannot go to a friend's home without thought.
I will never forget the morning of Isabel’s diagnosis. At the doctor’s office Isabel looked up at me and said, “Do I need a pokie?” She already knew what diabetes was because her father also has type 1 diabetes. I knew what was in store for her life and the tremendous challenge which we were faced with. I try not to calculate how many injections and finger pokes she endures during the course of a year.
While Isabel was in the hospital playroom during our stay after her diagnosis, a child services counselor told me I was mourning the loss of my healthy child. I said to myself, no, she is still healthy, will be healthy. It will just take a lot of work to do so.
I tell myself with certainty every day that Isabel will not be managing this disease the rest of her life. We are confident and positive about seeing a cure in the future, and with research this cure can be found. I just hope it is sooner than later...