by: Veronica Lynch
We are about to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. On July 26th, my 12-year-old daughter, Kathlyn Lynch, will be meeting with our country’s lawmakers on Capitol Hill to share both what a day in her life is like as a Type 1 diabetic, and how they can continue to help by supporting the Juvenile Diral years earlier when we lived in Arkansas, and I had heard about the symptoms. I wondered if Kathlyn’s problems could be attributed to Type 1 Diabetes, and brought her to the doctor. He told us not to worry – that a virus was going around and she would be fine in a week. I can remember his words, “Why put her through a blood test if we don’t have to?” That was exactly what I wanted to hear, that my baby was fine – only she wasn’t fine.
One night, she came downstairs in a pair of shorty pajamas. It was December in Wisconsin (and colder than you can imagine) – but I was behind on laundry, so she had a pair of summer PJs on. Kat is a dancer, and has always had muscular legs. Since she was 7 at the time, she had been taking showers and dressing herself. Plus, it was winter, so I had not seen her legs in days. Her beautiful, muscular legs were shockingly skinny. The next day, I went to the pharmacy to buy a blood glucose meter. Thinking back now, it’s so funny, how we can look back and see God’s hand in our lives… even in the little things, like how a store shelf is stocked. The only blood glucose monitor in the entire store had been opened. I brought it to the pharmacist and asked if they had another in the back. “Now why do you need that, dear?” Surely she could see the panic in my face. I told her about Kat’s symptoms. She reappeared with a small meter, set it up and showed me exactly how to use it. “Wait until tomorrow morning, before she has had anything to eat and then test her. If she is over 120, call your doctor.” I was so thankful for that pharmacist!
The next morning, we woke up and Kathlyn begrudging let me poke her finger and test the tiny drop of blood. 5-4-3-2-1…I held my breath for the longest 5 seconds ever. Finally, a number appeared: 250. 250?! I woke my husband, who was convinced I had done it wrong. I tested him. His blood sugar was 72. For your reference, all of us “normal” folks should have a fasting blood sugar of 70-80. 120 is considered pre-diabetic. My baby was 250.
We learned several days later in training just how lucky we were. Many kids are not diagnosed until they are vomiting violently or slipping in and out of a coma, with blood sugar levels as high as 700 or 800. Sadly, children still die from undiagnosed T1D, and it is unacceptable! There should be posters with symptoms in every doctor’s office. It should be reviewed at every well-child check-up. Blood glucose meters should be in every pediatrician’s office. This is Kat’s vision, and we have been working with some of our local providers to make that happen. We were so blessed that we were aware of the symptoms and caught it early!
After she was diagnosed, we slid into our new “normal,” testing her blood and counting carbs before each meal (which meant doing a lot of horrible math). We learned to give her shots for every meal, whether she ate an apple or an ice cream cone. She now needs to test her blood sugar and have a shot of insulin – since her body does not make insulin on its own. She gets at least 6 shots a day, including meals and long-lasting insulin at night. We have to rotate shots, so as not to build up scar tissue, between her arms, legs, bottom and tummy. Imagine giving a 7-year-old a shot in their stomach! Each day is a balancing act to avoid both high blood sugars, that could cause health problems in the future, and lows, which could cause her to pass out or have a seizure.
From the beginning, my husband told Kat that she would have a choice to make: “You can spend your life bitter and angry that you have T1D, and just go through life doing what you have to do. Or, you can choose to be an advocate for others and help them learn from you–and, just maybe, you can make a difference.” It’s hard to imagine asking a 7-year-old child to make a life choice like that, but we were determined to not let this control her life. We allowed her to make the choice herself, and our little warrior decided to share her story with others. She has become an advocate, and endeavors, in any way she can, to help find a cure.
In 2015, we moved back to Arkansas (hooray!). Kat saw signs in our neighborhood for a JDRF fundraiser at the neighborhood clubhouse, and said “Momma, can we go there?” We stepped in and I felt like I had found my people! Here were other moms that spoke the language of Type 1 Diabetes, that knew what it was like to cry over a piece of birthday cake you didn’t know how to dose for, or wake up in the middle of the night to test blood sugar and treat a low.
We jumped into JDRF and haven’t looked back. Kat became a Youth Ambassador and formed a walk team, raising over $5,000 last year. She brought the JDRF Kids Walk to her middle school and Bright Field Middle School raised over $6,000 for T1D research to date. She participated in a national photo shoot, a radio interview during National Diabetes Awareness Month in November, and even got to meet Congressman Womack for a “Promise to Remember Me” meeting last fall. She was able to share with him her Continuous Glucose Monitor, which reads her blood sugar every 5 minutes and reports it to our phones. This awesome technology is a direct result of JDRF research and all those who have supported their work. She has been a guest speaker at multiple fundraising events, golf tournaments, corporate meetings, and other events. This past May, at the Annual Run for the Roses Gala benefitting JDRF, Kat was able to address over 500 attendees and share her story. That event raised over $375,000 for JDRF and Type 1 research!
Now we will be going to Washington D.C. with 150 other delegates, to share the amazing advancements in T1D diagnosis, research and treatment as a result of JDRF and ask Congress for their continued support of the Special Diabetes Act.
“One day when I have kids, I don’t want to worry that they could end up with T1D. I would love to say I used to have T1D and that I was part of making Type One, Type None,” says Kat.
Knowing the symptoms of
T1D could save a life.
• Extreme thirst
• Frequent urination
• Dramatic weight loss
• Vomiting or Flu-like symptoms
Diabetes affects 26 million Americans, including three million who have type 1 diabetes (T1D). T1D is an autoimmune disease, where the body attacks the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. It is usually diagnosed in children. Those with T1D need daily shots of insulin to live. For more information on T1D and how you can help, visit JDRF – Type 1 Diabetes Research Funding and Advocacy.