Fighting to Delay the Onset of Diabetes, Part 1Monday, April 16, 2012 6:32
When my daughter was 3 years old, she received ominous medical lab results. Blood work showed her pancreas was under attack from her own immune system. She was at high risk of developing type 1 (juvenile-onset, insulin-dependent) diabetes, and our family was thrown into a state of high alert.
Most parents don’t get advance warning of their child’s diabetic diagnosis. Typically, the disease appears in its full-blown stage. The child is thirsty, urinates frequently and loses weight. His or her blood sugar is elevated, the physician diagnoses diabetes, and the family is launched into an immediate educational program to learn the new, mandatory medical regimen.
Instead, we discovered that diabetes loomed in our daughter’s future when we entered her into a clinical trial that performed blood tests on the children of type 1 diabetics. The blood work tests for antibodies against the child’s own pancreas and, if these auto-antibodies are detected, the child is eligible to continue as a “guinea pig” in the trial. Each high-risk child is randomly assigned to either a wait-and-watch group or a treatment group where the child is given small insulin injections twice daily.
Our little girl was eligible to continue in the clinical study and qualified as “high risk,” but before we kept her in the program, we wanted to learn of any alternatives. Even though I am diabetic myself, I was unfamiliar with research being done to try to slow down — or even halt — the progression to diabetes. With the news about my daughter, I was anxious to get information on possible strategies or treatment plans as quickly as possible.
My first step was to buy a computer and learn how to use the Internet. I know of no other way to access a multitude of medical sources as quickly as one can on the Web. I studied diabetes Web sites, read chat room conversations, familiarized myself with diabetic conference summary sites and struggled through medical journal abstracts.
I tried to remain cautious, knowing that everything written is not necessarily true. What I read was often technical and challenging to understand. Still, the more I studied, the more familiar I became with various terms and theories.
I began to recognize and sort through different opinions and approaches.
Online, I read about the scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association. This annual conference is intended for physicians and healthcare professionals. I saw it discussed on the ADA Web site and decided to register.