Updated 24 hours ago
Carlene Bensch, 46, worries that her 9-year-old son may not wake up one morning.
Her son, Joe, is a third-grader at West View Elementary School who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes two years ago.
“I think about it every day. When his blood sugars go low, they go real low. People don’t understand what an emotional roller coaster it is,” she said.
Seven students at West View Elementary School have diabetes, a life-threatening autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables the body to get energy from food. Complications from elevated blood sugar levels, or too little insulin, can affect major organs in the body, including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes, and kidneys; low blood sugar levels, or too much insulin, can cause fatigue, dizziness, confusion, seizures or coma.
Diabetics must monitor their sugar intake and blood glucose levels several times a day.
All seven diabetic students shared their stories and answered questions last week about diabetes during West View Elementary School’s first-ever school-wide assembly associated with the Kids Walk to Cure Diabetes program sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). The program teaches students about diabetes and the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and provides them with an opportunity to make a difference by raising money for Type 1 diabetes research.
The school’s 550 students in kindergarten through sixth grade participated in a school-wide diabetes walk around the gymnasium Feb. 16 and raised $8,535.50 for JDRF.
Braden Kellum, 10, a fifth-grader at the school, was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 4.
He was rushed to the hospital when his glucose levels exceeded 800. The normal range is between 70-100. He spent five days in the hospital. Until he got an insulin pump, he had to get six to eight insulin injections each day.
Third-grader Jeremiah Mackey, 9, said, “I’m doing the diabetes walk to help make a cure so people don’t have to get shots every day.”
Lily Stewart, 9, wants to see a cure, too.
“I want to get diabetes cured forever. My sister has it and just had a baby that might be affected by it,” she said.
Carlene Bensch and Kasey Kellum, Braden’s mother, coordinated the event.
“We just wanted to raise awareness. We’re amazed that the kids raised so much money,” Bensch said.
Juvenile diabetes affects 1.2 million Americans. It can strike at any age. Between 2001 and 2009 there was a 21-percent increase in the prevalence of juvenile diabetes in people under the age of 20, according to the JDRF website.
Since its inception in 1970, JDRF has contributed more than $2 billion to juvenile diabetes research, which has helped develop therapies, provide advocacy and inch closer to finding a prevention and cure.
Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.