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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Diabetes buddies: Voices of experience and hope

Mary's diabetes story:

     I've been involved with the Outreach Program for JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) for about 10 years.   A family lives near me in a MetroWest suburb of Mass. and I visited them with one of our Bags of Hope, a care package designed to encourage children and their adult caregivers, help ease the transition of a new diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, and introduce the family to JDRF.  You go to the home and bring the bag with you and meet the child who was just diagnosed, and their parents.  The bag has a lot of information about diabetes, Rufus the Bear with Diabetes, a blood glucose meter…

     This family had a son, Joe, who was six.  My son Nick was diagnosed with diabetes at age 8.  Nick, who was 12 then, was just there with me.  There wasn't a lot of connection right then, but the young boy later wrote Nick a thank you note.  It meant a lot for Nick to get that.  Nick had just gone onto an insulin pump at age 11 or 12, and Joe was interested in learning about the pump.  So Nick went to visit again and showed Joe his pump; that interaction fostered more of a connection between them.

     When Joe got older, he went to Camp Joslin (now part of the Barton Center for Diabetes Education), where Nick was a counselor.  Nick had been on his high school football team, which Joe, who was in middle school by then, was very interested in.  They had this history in common, so they talked, and Nick told him about hiding his glucose tablets in those tight football pants.  

     When Nick was in college, he met another boy in our town, Mike, who'd recently been diagnosed with diabetes, who was about the same age as Joe.  The mothers arranged for Joe and Mike to go out for lunch with Nick, to ask about drinking and drugs and whatever.  That happened several times.  So the buddying about diabetes rippled out from that.  

     I ran into Joe two weeks ago.  He's now a senior in high school.   Joe is interested in delivering Bags of Hope to newly diagnosed children and in becoming a diabetes mentor for JDRF and being that voice of experience.  It's all circled around.

     The boys' mothers saw Nick's mentoring as a source of support, encouragement, and chance to see an older boy who was doing well living with Type 1 Diabetes.  They both also mentioned that for them as mothers it was comforting and helpful to see an older boy negotiating through the teen years and college well.

     That circled around another way, too.  Joe's mother is a captain of a large Walk Team in Boston [for the annual Walk to Cure Diabetes, JDRF's biggest fund-raising event].  That all started from that first Bag of Hope delivery.  As people get more comfortable with the disease and how to manage it, they get more involved with JDRF and its fund-raising side.  Building engagement like that is a process that takes some time.  For some families, it’s immediate; for others it takes a year or two; with others, it doesn't happen at all.  

     Read another story about how buddies help others with diabetes, and see the JDRF's New England Chapter - Bay State Branch website.  Thanks to Lauren Shields of JDRF for arranging the interview with Mary.

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