News & Events

Statement presented on School Health Advocacy Day, April 28, 2003

Good morning. Lisa is about to read to you a piece that we and our son Harris put together as part of a fundraising effort by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to raise the funds necessary to find a cure for diabetes. We believe that it presents a picture of the daily impact of diabetes on the life of a 7-year-old boy, and that it will illustrate the absolutely critical role of school nurses in this regimen.

"My name is Harris Lloyd Wallack. I am seven years old. I am in First Grade at the Rashi School in Newton, Massachusetts. I was diagnosed with type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes two years ago. Since then, my life has changed in many ways. Little things that other kids don’t even think about are really important for me. My parents and I have to count, measure and balance every single morsel of food that I eat with how much insulin and exercise I get. We have to plan ahead and make special arrangements every time there is a special snack at school or if I want to go on a play date or to a birthday party. Lucky for me, I don’t feel like there is anything important that I cannot do – if we are prepared and pay attention. But taking care of this balancing act has sure become a full-time job for my Mom!

I used to get three to four insulin injections a day. A few months ago, I began to use an insulin pump. In some ways, the pump has made my life easier. Before the pump, I had to eat the same amount of food every day at any given meal, whether I was starving or stuffed. Now I can eat more or less food at any given meal, depending on how I feel. I used to have to get up early for breakfast, even on the weekends. Now I can sleep as late as I like. And my blood sugar readings have been much more stable! The downside is, using the pump properly requires a lot of work. I have to check my blood sugar about 10 times a day. Before snacks and lunch at school, I have to go to the nurse’s office for a blood check and to figure out how much insulin I need to give myself with the pump (my "bolus") in order to restore my blood sugar level to normal and to cover the food that I am about to eat. I also go before and after gym class to make sure that my blood sugar does not drop too low from the exercise. My parents even need to check my blood sugar one to three times during the night when I am sleeping. (Luckily, I don’t usually wake up).

I don’t really notice any more that I am wearing the pump all the time. My friends were curious at first, but they don’t seem to think about it much any more. My least favorite part is getting the "set" (the connection between the pump and my body) changed every other day — the needle sure is big! But I try to be a good sport about it and it is better than getting all those injections. While my parents and I are proud of the fact that I have adjusted so well to having diabetes and to wearing the pump, we all know that it is not really a cure for diabetes. With your help and support, I know we will find the cure soon. It sure would be nice not to have to worry about all these things and just to be a kid again!"

Harris is not alone. 30,000 Americans, 13,000 of whom are children, are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each year. There are 3 children with type 1 diabetes in Harris’s school alone – all on insulin pumps. We are so fortunate to have Coral Ambuter, an extraordinary, full-time nurse at Harris’s school, to help care for him through the day. We don’t know what we would do without her. As we mentioned, to manage Harris’s condition, he has to have his blood sugar checked, and insulin administered through his insulin pump, by the school nurse a minimum of three times a day, at 9:00 am, 11:30, am and at 3:00 pm. He also has his blood sugar checked by the nurse before and after exercise (gym class or an especially active recess), and any time that he is not feeling well. If his blood sugar is too high, she administers insulin. If it is too low, she makes sure that he gets a fast-acting carbohydrate (juice) or, in an emergency, glucagon, to restore his blood sugar to normal and to prevent him passing out or going into a diabetic coma. A dangerous low blood sugar can happen at any time, and there is no way to predict when it will occur. We need, and are so lucky to have, a full-time nurse available at all times through the school day to make sure that our son is safe and healthy. All children deserve the same.

Thank you.