CLEVELAND — Two friends from Northeast Ohio, Colleen Chambers and Callie Leonard, are on a mission to raise awareness about Type 1 diabetes.
“So a lot of people don't understand that we have no choice but to inject insulin for the rest of our lives,” said Chambers.
The two grew up in Northeast Ohio and met at a diabetes camp in 2009.
“So we bonded over that and then eventually just became closer as we grew older,” said Leonard.
The two friends are part of the nonprofit “Beyond Type 1” diabetes awareness campaign to educate others about the disease.
Right now about 1.6 million people in the United States are living with type one diabetes and 200,000 of those are children. It’s the second most common childhood illness next to asthma.
But many people are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed and the coronavirus pandemic has increased that which is why the two friends want to spread the word.
Type 1 diabetes is when the immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that makes insulin, which is the hormone that regulates blood sugar.
Type 2 diabetes is when the body is able to make a lot of insulin at first but the body becomes resistant to that insulin.
Warning signs and symptoms include extreme thirst, frequent urination, fruit-smelling breath and even blurred vision.
“The symptoms are the same no matter what type of diabetes, and so anyone of any age who has any of these symptoms should seek medical care urgently,” said Dr. Jamie Wood, director of pediatric diabetes at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.
She added, "We diagnosed two children under the age of 1 in the last couple of months at Rainbow with type 1."
There is no cure and it can be deadly. However, treatments are improving thanks in part to technology like wireless insulin pumps and glucose monitors.
“It’s so helpful to understand and just get more educated and aware of what someone else may be going through,” said Leonard.
Both Chambers and Leonard are now excelling in medical careers and working to reduce the stigma around diabetes.
“Hopefully very soon I'll be able to work as a nurse practitioner and take care of kids with diabetes, which is my goal,” said Chambers.
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