MFL MarMac raises awareness for type 1 diabetes

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Throughout November, which is National Diabetes Awareness Month, MFL MarMac Schools have worked to fundraise and increase awareness for type 1 diabetes. Dalton Krause, a fourth-grade student in Mrs. Dull’s class, won these #SWAG socks after he paid $1 to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund and was entered into a drawing for “Sock it to T1D,” which was last week’s “Fundraise Wednesday.” (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Throughout November, which is National Diabetes Awareness Month, MFL MarMac Schools have worked to fundraise and increase awareness for type 1 diabetes.

Often referred to as juvenile diabetes, type 1 diabetes is commonly diagnosed among children and young adults. The disease affects 1.25 million Americans, including 200,000 youth. According to the American Diabetes Association, type 1 diabetes occurs when a person’s body does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone the body needs to get glucose—which comes from the sugars and starches the body takes in—from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. The condition is managed with insulin therapy and other treatments.

Only about 5 percent of those who have diabetes have type 1 diabetes, noted the American Diabetes Association. However, several students at MFL MarMac have the condition. In order to show support for these students and their parents, MFL MarMac, along with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), has set a goal of raising $500 to go toward research for finding a cure.

Through the sale of bracelets and special sneaker stickers, the middle and high schools have worked to raise funds. The schools have also held “Fundraise Wednesday” events throughout the month, where, by donating $1, students can dress up in that week’s theme. 

Aside from fundraising, the activities are also meant to inform. Parent Angie Schmidt, whose daughter Breanna has type 1 diabetes and attends the McGregor Center, chronicled her and Breanna’s experience with the disease in a letter that went home to parents.

In June 2008, when Breanna was nearly 3 years old, Angie said Breanna was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She had been sick for several days, throwing up, acting lethargic and sleeping all day.

“This was not at all like my talkative, spunky, curly-haired 2 year old that I knew and loved,” Angie recalled. 

Angie said an initial trip to the doctor didn’t find anything concerning. However, once Breanna’s blood was tested, type 1 diabetes became a prime suspect.

“Her blood glucose reading was higher than what the meter at the clinic could record. We were immediately prepped for an ambulance ride to La Crosse,” Angie said. “I found out later her blood glucose was 1459 (normal blood glucose readings should be 80-120 for a non-diabetic). I know now how close I was to losing her. At blood sugars that high, there is no reason she should not have been in a coma.”

That evening, Breanna was admitted to the ICU and given fluids and insulin through an IV drip. Now, seven years later, Angie said Breanna has had no lasting effects from that experience.

She describes Breanna as a “10-year-old little girl who happens to need medicine to control her blood sugars. She has no restrictions, and I try to keep her life as normal as we can while still trying to keep her healthy.”

Breanna checks her blood sugar six to 10 times each day and is required to do so before she eats or exercise or if she’s feeling “off.”

“You can’t take blood sugars personally,” Angie said, divulging some advice she has for other parents whose children have type 1 diabetes. “Their bodies do what they want to.”

Everything from certain foods to growth spurts can affect Breanna’s blood sugar levels, Angie explained. 

Rather than taking several insulin shots per day, Angie said Breanna has an insulin pump, which delivers her insulin through a tube that is connected to her body. The tubing and insulin is changed every three days. Now, shots are only given in emergency situations, Angie noted, which are few and far between.

Now that Breanna is 10 and wants to visit friends and stay at their homes, Angie said it’s sometimes difficult to ensure her diabetes is being managed correctly.

As Breanna aged, Angie said she went on all her field trips and was never far away, in case problems arose.

This past year, Angie said her family visited a camp for kids with diabetes, which is located near Boone, that Breanna was interested in attending. It was helpful to congregate with other families and learn about where Breanna would stay for one week. It was also a big step, she said, in giving Breanna some independence and allowing her to socialize with other kids like her.

Angie said it’s “humbling” to see all the school has done to raise awareness for type 1 diabetes.

“I know there are other illnesses they could have highlighted, and they’ve made it a big deal,” she said. “I hope, by the school highlighting it, it might get put on people’s radars.”

That’s big, Angie said, because it wasn’t on her radar. There was no history of it in the family.

“Doctors can’t tell how it happens. There’s no rhyme or reason; it just does,” she explained. “And it breaks my heart.”

For anyone seeking advice about type 1 diabetes, Angie said she’s always available and knows how difficult it can be to discuss it.

“I didn’t want to talk or share. I wanted to figure it out on my own,” she said. “Now, seven years into it, I know what it’s like.”

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