*This article originally appeared in print in the Jewish Press*
On Saturday, August 11, Carter Eades and his family will participate in the JDRF’s annual Walk to Cure Diabetes for the third time. They first became aware of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in 2010 when Carter was diagnosed with juvenile, or type 1, diabetes shortly before his ninth birthday.
In the weeks leading up to his diagnosis, Carter, now 11, had been feeling lethargic and had lost about 12 pounds. His parents, Brian and Leslie Eades, didn’t know what to make of it at the time.
“I thought he was just being a lazy kid,” Brian said.
But after Brian’s father remarked that Carter seemed to drink a lot of water during a recent visit to the SAC Museum, he and Leslie began to suspect something might really be wrong with their son.
The next day, when Carter woke up “feeling crummy,” Leslie took him to see their doctor and suddenly all the diabetic warning signs–lethargy, weight loss, fruity-smelling breath–fell into place.
“I remember he [the doctor] sat down, he gave mom a tissue before he said it. He said your son’s been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. And she started crying,” Carter said.
At the time, however, Leslie wasn’t entirely sure what she was crying about. She just knew it was a disease that was afflicting her son. And when she contacted her husband, he didn’t know what the diagnosis meant either, only that it was serious.
“I had no clue what [it] actually meant,” Brian said. “I don’t think either Leslie or I, until we started going through the classes with the nutritionist, the classes with the nurses, on diabetes management, had any clue on how our lives would dramatically change.”
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, which affects how your body consumes energy. Without proper treatment, diabetics can suffer from kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage and amputations.
Carter and his parents had to learn how to manage his insulin and blood sugar levels. They learned how and when to give Carter a shot or when he needed juice or food instead. And they learned about the JDRF and its decades-long mission to find a cure for this disease that affects approximately three million Americans.
“Managing type 1 diabetes is really a day-to-day struggle,” Brian said.
“Hour-to-hour,” Leslie interjected, adding, “we sleep with one eye open” in case Carter’s blood sugar becomes too high or too low during the night.
Founded in 1970, JDRF has poured $1.6 billion into diabetes research in the hopes of finding a cure. The Walk to Cure Diabetes was established in 1992 as a way to raise money and awareness of juvenile diabetes. Last year’s Walk alone raised $85.7 million.
Carter and his family became interested in the Walk when Carter’s uncle Gustavo Torres visited him in the hospital and told him he’d signed the family up to walk. Gustavo had participated in the Walk before, through his company, and now that it was personal, he knew it was more important than ever to raise money for research.
“Carter B’s Troopers,” as Carter’s family and friends had dubbed themselves, have raised about $4,500 in the past two years for the Walk to Cure Diabetes, and they’re looking forward to doing even better this year. (In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that the author is Carter’s uncle and counts himself as one of the “Troopers.”)
As Carter prepares once again for the Walk, it occurs to him how many people, family and friends alike, have come together to raise funds for diabetes research, all because of him.
“It is pretty nice now that I think about it,” Carter said.
If any member of Omaha’s Jewish community would like to help fund research for a cure for juvenile diabetes, visit JDRF.org, click on “Walk to Cure Diabetes” and enter “Carter B’s Troopers” in the “Team Name” field. You can make a donation, sign up as a fundraiser, or you can simply show up on August 11 and walk in support of Carter and the millions of others who live with this life-changing disease.
(Carter Eades, middle, in last year’s JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes, flanked by his grandmother, Darlene Golbitz, and cousin Max Kushner)