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Young diabetics tell their stories

[Photo courtesy of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation]
Florida kids pose with celebrities who attended the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Children’s Congress: top row (left to right): Andrew Scarborough, Brian Pitt, Seth Woolf, Ian Lash; middle row: Gaby Mejia, Maggie Maloney, Mary Tyler Moore, Jonathan Lipnicki, Tyler Burkhalter; bottom row: Ryan Fordiani, Chloe Textor, Allison Reddish, Jacob Winkler.


© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 10, 2001

In Washington, a group of young citizens living with the disease asks a Senate subcommittee for more funding to find a cure.

Okay, so here I was on a plane. Not just any plane, but a noisy, cramped, hot, musty plane. In the back of the coach section, I might add.

Most people would be disturbed to have such poor seating, but not me; I was quite the happy 16-year-old that day. Instead of complaining about the plane, I chatted with my mother about what kind of difference we would be making.

I and many other diabetics my age were traveling to our nation's capital to discuss with the U.S. Senate Subcommittee of Investigations why we need funding for research to discover the cure for diabetes. We had been chosen as delegates to the national Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Children's Congress this summer.

You see, I have had diabetes for 11 years now, and I've endured more than 9,000 insulin shots and 18,000 finger pricks. Now I am attached to an insulin pump in which I inject a catheter into my abdomen, and I have to rotate it every three days. I am ready for a cure to this horrific disease that rules my life and endangers my future with life-threatening complications.

As soon as we arrived in Washington, the delegates were escorted to luxury rooms at the Marriott, and, well, the activities did not stop until we were on our planes for the trip back home.

Besides the many ordinary citizens with diabetes who were there, many television and movie celebrities living with the disease joined the meeting to take a stand for finding a cure. Among them were television great Mary Tyler Moore, Jonathan Lipnicki (The Little Vampire and Stuart Little), Kevin Kline and former Apollo astronaut Jim Lovell.

As with all events such as this, there was much to be done in a short time. CNN personality Larry King introduced the delegates as we sang the emotional song Promise to Remember Me on the steps of the Capitol, and many an eye was teary.

Hearing diabetics tell their stories of what it's like to live with this horrible disease was certainly memorable for me. As every child testified, tears were again a common sight on Capitol Hill. It made me wish the whole world could see the real children, with real feelings, who have this real disease.

I left the event optimistic. It was one of few chances when children with the same life-altering disease that prevents me every day from being a normal teenager could let people know how serious juvenile diabetes really is.

We can only hope that our message got through.

- Brian Pitt, 16, is a junior at Seminole High School. He enjoys lifting weights and drumming for his punk rock band, Middleground. www.middleground.homestead.com/home.html

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