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All Together Now.

April 25, 2008

The image of the girl on the left is what children looked like before insulin was invented in 1921.

The girl on the right is what children looked like after it was invented.

But for thousands of children around the world, the first image is still their reality.

Although we live in a developed country where gaining medical care can by tricky, it is nothing compared to the complete isolation that children with diabetes in developing countries must deal with on a daily basis.

At the premiere of the short documentary, Life for a Child, I watched as three families struggle to deal with caring for diabetes in Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world. The International Diabetes Federation estimates there are 440,000 children with type 1 under the age of 15 in the world, around 250,000 live in developing nations. While getting insulin can be as quick as driving to the local pharmacy – which some of us complain about at times – in Nepal, getting insulin can take anywhere from two to six hours of walking and public transportation in order to travel from a small village to the hospital in Kathmandu.

Children diagnosed with type 1 must go to the hospital once a month to receive their allotment of insulin and to take their one and only blood sugar reading. One. There are times I bemoan having to test as often as I do but when faced with the prospect of testing only once a month – one glimmer at what is going on inside my body – I reel at the injustice, the sheer impossibility of ever being able to take care of myself. I know how poorly my body reacts when I test under four times a day. I can’t even imagine what the impact is when you are given such a blurry insight into your health. Children who come to the hospital often have low blood sugar from all the walking and lack of food, so who knows what is happening to them the rest of the time?

This is, of course, if the child is even diagnosed.

Many children in rural and developing countries die from diabetes in part because no one knows what diabetes is and what symptoms to look for, and thus they never even have a chance. Medicine men and palm readers take advantage of families and lie to them, leaving families broke and children on the brink of death.

Life for a child with diabetes in a developing country is wrought with a lack of support and education. Parents who are uneducated and illiterate don’t understand what is happening to their children and the importance of coming to the hospital and taking their insulin. Many families simply cannot pay for health care, and those who can still struggle with keeping their insulin cool and their test strips in stock. While most of us complain about not having a mocha frappaccino or a Snickers bar whenever we want, children in developing countries struggle to keep their blood sugar from crashing simply because they don’t have any food.

IDF’s Life for a Child program is working on solving this crisis. They are working with clinics and governments in developing countries to provide better education and access for children. So far, they have nearly 1,000 children enrolled in the program in 17 different countries, including the children featured in the Life for a Child movie. Although the families don’t have to pay for their child’s medication, many of them still lack the capability to test their blood sugar frequently and they must navigate the hundreds of miles from their village to the city.

I want to write about this because I have several close friends who are actively involved in the Life for a Child program. Although I don’t want to preach and pressure anyone, I do think we have a unique opportunity to help the children in these countries, whether it’s through a monetary donation or through a post on your blog to educate others.

Last week, our community came together to raise our voice about life with diabetes. To raise our voice about the truth of what type 1 diabetes really is.

The truth also includes the fact that there are thousands of children – children just like us – who are dying from it. One day, there will be a cure and we should all work hard to make sure that happens. But until that day comes, these children need our help.

No child should to die from diabetes.

So I ask you, whether you have type 1 diabetes or not – whether you are a mother, a friend, or a co-worker – to listen to the children, the children who are trying very hard to share their strong, courageous voices.

They are out there and they deserve to be heard.

Then raise your voice in unison.

  1. Gayle permalink
    April 28, 2008 12:04 PM

    Allison, thank you for sharing.

  2. April 28, 2008 12:27 PM

    Every time I see or read about something like this, it just reminds me of how lucky we all really are. There will always be someone less fortunate that you are, and we should help to change that. I’m donating money pronto!


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