Diabetes drives children to help others – Jackson Clarion Ledger
Type 2 diabetes can wreak havoc on your health. While lifestyle changes can help keep diabetes under control, many patients require oral medications or insulin injections as forms of treatment, too. Watch the video for how diabetes affects your body.
To invert a popular adage, it can take a child to raise a village — or, in this case, a child who grew up with diabetes and as an adult vividly recalls what it was like.
A self-described free spirit, Mary Fortune has trekked the world despite a particularly brittle case of type 1 diabetes, traveling the Pacific Coast Highway on the back of a motorcycle, even in the immediate aftermath of a low blood sugar episode, and riding the rails of Europe, where she remembers asking for food from a train window in Hamburg during another hypoglycemic moment (blood glucose monitoring was not available in those days).
But she had one limitation.
She was told that because of her condition she should never try to get pregnant. That was the conventional wisdom in those days.
Yet, as she marks her 50th anniversary with diabetes — a demanding and often unforgiving life partner — Fortune says she feels as if she has raised an enormous family of those from across the state who like her had to come to terms in their youth or childhood with multiple daily insulin injections, finger sticks, blood sugar highs and lows, rigorous attention to diet and exercise and the kind of health complications that can beset even the most conscientious.
“They’re all my children, hundreds who have grown up with diabetes, and I’m still in touch with quite a few,” said Fortune, executive vice president of the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. “I’ve followed their lives and careers, engagements, weddings, births, successes and failures, times of crisis and grief, and times of joy.”
And making this Mississippi matriarch of diabetes particularly proud this week are those children and adults she has mentored over the years who will be participating in the Diabetes Foundation’s 14th Annual Ultimate Fashion Show and Champagne Luncheon from 11 a.m to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Country Club of Jackson.
Proceeds will go to support the foundation’s Camp Kandu for children with diabetes and their families. The need has never been greater, because new studies have shown the rates of children being diagnosed with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes have increased dramatically, especially among racial and ethnic minorities.
Nationally between 2001 and 2009, the prevalence of Type 1 diabetes increased 21 percent among children up to age 19, according to a study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes among those ages 10 to 19 rose 30 percent during the same period, the study, released in 2014, found. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, the hormone needed to allow sugar into cells to produce energy. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin.
“We are up at Batson Children’s Hospital seeing newly diagnosed children far more than we used to be,” Fortune said.
Among those taking to the runway will be Charlie Mozingo, 41, the founder of Mozingo Clothiers in Fondren, who was introduced to Fortune after his diagnosis at the age of 10 and who in adulthood has been working with the foundation as a volunteer and board member.
“Mozingo Clothiers is excited to be a part of this year’s fashion show,” he said. “We are dressing seven gentlemen in everything from custom clothing to some of our more casual attire.” (As GQ might advise, “Look for bold windowpanes in sport coats with lightweight materials that are both soft and comfortable,” Mozingo said.)
Also taking part will be the foundation’s communications coordinator, Kaitlan Alford, 23, who was diagnosed with Type 1 at age 9 after spending two days in a coma.
“My diagnosis was dramatic for everyone, really intense, and I saw how it affected my family,” she said. “We were all in a sense diagnosed. My mother saw me going through all this, the 2 a.m. blood sugar checks every night, but she knew I could handle it and take care of myself, which made me feel like I could do anything.”
Soft-spoken and demure, Alford had to fight back tears as she recalled how the disease has affected her mother, as well as the way Fortune reached out to her, first as a friend and mentor but then as the one who hired her after college.
“I get emotional when I talk about it,” Alford said. “I don’t just work here. It’s not just us helping others. Mary helps me. We talk about things we both go through, trying to juggle the complex set of challenges that diabetes presents while at the same time trying to live a normal life.”
At one of the foundation’s many statewide fund-raising walks, a child touched Alford’s life in a way that she said still stands out in her mind.
“My mom walked over to me and introduced me to this tiny, blond curly haired boy with blue eyes that could melt anyone’s heart,” Alford said. “He was 3 years old, and he had been diagnosed with Type 1 at 18 months.”
She said that her eyes immediately filled with tears. “Describing how I felt is nearly impossible,” Alford said. “I was hurting for him because I knew what he was going through, and I was empowered by him because he was 3 and dealing with challenges I didn’t have to face until I was 9.”
Alford said the boy, Ayden Wolken of Mendenhall, now 10 and competing on the soccer field and at livestock shows, inspired her to be even more courageous and determined while living with diabetes. “Seeing him thriving now continues to inspire me,” she said.
“These are the kinds of moments that those at the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi make possible because of their passion for not merely helping others, but for changing lives.”
IF YOU GO
The Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi’s 14th Annual Ultimate Fashion Show and Champagne Luncheon will feature models of all ages in spring and summer fashions, giveaways and an array of raffle items, as well as a Champagne lunch and a drawing for the 2017 Patty Peck Honda “Car 4 a Cure.” All money raised by the foundation remains in Mississippi to be used to improve the quality of life of children and adults with diabetes.
Being honored will be the foundation’s 2017 Women of Excellence, Dr. Jane-Claire Boyd Williams of GI Associates and Dr. Beverly Hogan, president of Tougaloo College.
What: The Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi’s 14th Annual Ultimate Fashion Show and Champagne Luncheon
Where: The Country Club of Jackson
When: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. April 20
Cost: $70 per ticket
For more information, call 601-957-7878 or visit msdiabetes.org (click on “Events”).
Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, the hormone needed to allow sugar into cells to produce energy.
Type 2 diabetes, once call adult-onset diabetes, occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin.
Source: Mayo Clinic