On April 5, my wife, Shannon, and I will be walking for our son Walker and millions of people around the globe living with Type 1 diabetes (T1D).
Walker’s T1D has been my family’s greatest opponent since his diagnosis at 17 months old. He’s 7 years old now, still too young to manage his own care, which is a never-ending, daily battle, because Walker doesn’t get any off days — not for Christmas or even on his birthday. T1D is ever-present, all-consuming — and it never quits. Facing that battle with him makes me and Shannon the rise-to-every-challenge types — just like the millions facing T1D each day.
From the moment Walker wakes up to the moment he goes to sleep at night, Shannon and I monitor everything he eats and drinks. We test his blood sugar with finger pricks 10 times a day, count the amount of carbohydrates he consumes and do the math required to determine how much insulin to inject. It can take up to seven shots a day just to make sure his blood-glucose levels remain in a safe range.
That’s a lot of shots for a 7-year-old, or for anyone. And I’m sure you can imagine those “shots” are a lot less fun than the ones I take on the basketball court.
Any miscalculation or over-administration of insulin can be life-threatening. Most people think that the days are a challenge, and that at night we must “get a break.” The truth is, it’s exactly the opposite.
T1D can be most dangerous at night. Blood sugars that seem fine at bedtime could suddenly come crashing down in the middle of the night. Without juice or food to restore balance, Walker could, God forbid, drift into a coma, and we would never know it until we tried to wake him the next morning. By then, it might be too late. So we wake him up every two hours to check his blood sugars. In the six years since Walker’s diagnosis, Shannon and I have yet to sleep through the night.
Next weekend, you’ll see me at a slightly different pace. Instead of racing across the court on April 5, I’ll be walking alongside my family and many others from the Miami area in the Walk to Cure Diabetes, organized by JDRF, a global organization with a plan to turn “Type One” into “Type None.” JDRF works to ensure an ongoing stream of life-changing therapies that lessen the impact of T1D, keeping people healthy and safe today until we reach our ultimate goal of a cure.
JDRF focuses on potentially groundbreaking research that can take therapies from the lab through the drug-delivery pipeline directly to those living with T1D. It funds $568 million in research throughout 17 countries, supports 52 human clinical trials of potential new T1D therapies and is partnering with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on research into improving early detection and diagnosis.
We have real hope for a cure, but only if we keep pushing — and walking — forward.
Last July, Walker and I testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging in favor of the Special Diabetes Program (SDP), a government initiative Congress started in 1997 to advance T1D research at the NIH.
I spoke about our dream of a day when Walker can leave this disease behind. But, we can’t do it alone. We’ll need support from Congress, JDRF, the private sector, all the families in Miami, and communities around the world that face this issue every day. As with any team, the key to winning is simple. We’ll have to do it playing together. We all know the saying, “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Our dream is a world free of T1D for our son and the millions like him. Join our team and help us realize our dream.
We can make that dream a reality. We won’t stop until the clock runs out on T1D and our cure is found. We’re the “walk for Walker” type. Please join us at Zoo Miami next week, and together we’ll turn Type One into Type None.
Ray Allen, a guard for the Miami Heat, serves as an advocate for JDRF.