Paige Kuehmeier is Development Coordinator for the Palmetto Chapter of JDRF and lives on Daniel Island, South Carolina. She is one of those people whose enthusiasm is infectious. She and her husband Kevin started One Walk — a fundraising walk for research into Type 1 diabetes — on Daniel Island in 2009, and it has grown tremendously, which means more money is being raised and more people are getting involved.
AM: Tell me about your son’s diagnosis.
PK: Jay was two at diagnosis — 26 months old in fact. He was in diapers and just getting into his big boy bed, so we didn’t suspect anything when he was getting out of bed and running to the bathroom to get water. We had no knowledge of Type 1 diabetes, and no history of it in either of our families. Fortunately, we were talking to a distant family friend one day who inquired about the kids, and when we described Jay’s “antics” at night (drinking tons of water, wetting the bed) he said, “Sounds a lot like diabetes.” We went home and looked it up online, and recognized the symptoms. We weighed him and found he had lost 12% of his bodyweight since his two-year appointment just six weeks before. I waited until Monday morning to call his pediatrician and requested a test for Type 1. They told me to come straight over, ushered us in, did a blood glucose test, and sent us right to the hospital.
AM: How soon after his diagnosis did you get involved with JDRF?
PK: He was diagnosed in October 2005, and we went to a sugar-free Halloween festival that JDRF was involved with at the University at Buffalo later that month. We participated in the JDRF walk that spring and had amazing support from family, friends, and JDRF. Friends rallied around us and we started a group called WNY Run for Life and got a group to do the Marine Corps Marathon in the Fall of 2006, benefitting JDRF.
AM: What are some of your biggest challenges as a mom of a Type 1 child?
PK: Sleep is a consistent one, and constant worry. Jay is 13 years old now and we are trying to figure out how to let him be more independent, but safe at the same time. This weighs heavily on my mind. I remember hearing something about people with Type 1 diabetes and how the medicine that keeps them alive also has the power to end life. I can’t get it out of my head.
AM: What are some of your best resources as a mom of a Type 1 child?
PK: Other parents of people with Type 1 diabetes or people with Type 1 diabetes, along with social media, blogs, JDRF support circles, and events where you can talk with others in the same boat.
AM: What advice would you offer parents whose child has recently been diagnosed?
PK: When Jay was first diagnosed, I felt like I was poisoning him every time he ate. Ugh…that was such a hard memory. I think I’d tell parents that there is a learning curve, and it is steep, because the finish line never comes and the patterns change as soon as you think you understand them. They will eventually get to a new normal, but they have to expect the normal to be all about change. I’d also make sure they find someone they trust to care for their child so they can get a dinner, a few hours, and eventually an overnight break. Otherwise their care of their own child will suffer and their child won’t learn that he or she can be safe when mom and dad aren’t around.
AM: Tell us about the upcoming walk on Daniel Island, South Carolina (Sunday, March 12, 2017, at 1 PM in Smythe Park, Daniel Island). How can people get involved?
PK: One Walk is a day of hope for all those affected by Type 1 diabetes — families, friends, coworkers, and so on. JDRF gives all of us a chance to have an impact on our futures, and in large part they are responsible for real-time, hands-on products that we use to keep our Type 1 loved ones as healthy as we can…until there is a cure. One Walk is the largest JDRF fundraiser in the Lowcountry.
People can get involved by registering and raising money to support the research that is meant to change the future. Some folks share their story and write e-mails and social media posts to solicit donations and raise awareness. Some people ask business owners they know to get involved. Some people host bake sales or lemonade stands. Some sell carnations or do car washes. Some people start support groups and attend local fundraisers for JDRF. Some come and volunteer as stewards for the businesses that support JDRF. Others attend the JDRF Gala and support it, or partake in JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes…there are so many opportunities and ways to help!
Diabetes can make you fear the future and struggle with the present, but there are steps you can take to reduce this anxiety. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.