Imagine pricking your toddler’s finger with a needle a dozen times each day. Or giving yourself a shot 15 minutes before every meal or snack you eat. Or waking up your sleeping child four times throughout the night, every night, to check his or her blood sugar levels.
This is the reality for the millions of people living, or caring for a loved one, with type 1 diabetes (T1D) — people like 6-year-old Luna Randall and her parents, Maria and Paul.
Luna’s life changed nearly 11 months ago. In January 2017, Luna and her parents were visiting family in Texas when Luna’s behavior began to change drastically. She had a sudden insatiable thirst, drinking water directly from the faucet because she was so thirsty all the time. She was also extremely lethargic, which was out of the ordinary for this normally energetic, happy little girl. These symptoms, coupled with weight loss and a need to urinate much more frequently than usual, led Maria to bring Luna to her pediatrician immediately upon returning to Chicago.
It was then, at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, that Luna was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. With a blood sugar of 448, Luna was immediately admitted and remained for the next three days during which time Luna and her parents got a crash course in T1D and its management.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are mistakenly destroyed by the body’s immune system. T1D strikes both children and adults suddenly, and its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing that can be done to prevent it, and at present, there is no cure.
This means that a process most people’s bodies perform naturally and automatically requires frequent attention and manual intervention. Starting at the time of diagnosis and continuing for the rest of her life, Luna must constantly monitor her blood-sugar level, inject or infuse insulin through a pump, and carefully balance these insulin doses with eating and activity throughout the day and night. “It’s very intense. Every minute of our life is consciously lived,” says Maria Randall. “We have to know exactly what she’s consuming, what the activity level will be like, what the weather’s going to be like. Everything is a factor in our decisions and how much we dose her, what foods she eats, and how she lives her life.”
While Luna and others living with T1D are dependent on insulin to survive, insulin is not a cure. Even with the most vigilant management, those with T1D spend a significant portion of the day struggling with either high or low blood-sugar levels. These fluctuations place people at risk for potentially life-threatening episodes as well as devastating long-term complications such as kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, blindness, and amputation.
This is where JDRF comes in. JDRF works every day to change the reality of this disease for millions of people — and to prevent anyone else from ever knowing it — by funding research, advocating for government support, ensuring new therapies come to market, and connecting and engaging the T1D community. Founded by parents determined to find a cure for their children with T1D, JDRF expanded through grassroots fundraising and advocacy efforts to become a powerhouse in the scientific community with more than 75 U.S. locations and six international affiliates. Since 1970, JDRF has funded more than $2 billion in research, and over the past decade, JDRF-funded investigators have made extraordinary scientific advances that have increased the understanding of this life-threatening autoimmune disease and what will be required to conquer it.
For the Randall Family, JDRF was there very soon after Luna’s diagnosis. At the hospital, Luna received a Bag of Hope filled with useful resources for both her and her parents, but for Luna, nothing was more valuable than Rufus, the Bear with Diabetes. According to Maria Randall, “He’s a bear that nobody ever hopes to get, but he made all the difference at the time and still does. She takes him everywhere.”
JDRF’s vision for the future is a world without T1D, but until that day comes, the organization will continue to fund the development of transformational therapies that make living with T1D easier, safer and healthier. As the leading global funder of T1D research, JDRF is currently funding 177 research projects and 65 clinical trials worldwide while collaborating with top investigators who are driving cutting-edge research across the scientific spectrum, from discoveries in the lab to the delivery of new technologies and treatments.
“JDRF’s progress inspires us to continue to do everything we can to make a difference every year,” says Ken Aldridge, Chairman of the Board of Aldridge Electric. “Each year my children and your loved ones have access to better technology and get closer and closer to our ultimate goal: a cure.”
“The truth is, when it comes to type 1 diabetes, none of us are capable of ensuring a brighter future on our own, but each of us can make an investment in the future and ask others to do the same,” Aldridge continues. “And together we have a real opportunity to impact millions of lives and billions of dollars in healthcare costs.”
On a local level, the JDRF Illinois Chapter provides strong community support and offers numerous volunteer and fundraising opportunities to bring the T1D community together. One of the Chapter’s largest fundraisers, the JDRF One Dream Gala, will take place on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, at McCormick Place and Arie Crown Theater.
Recognized as one of Chicago’s premier charity events, the One Dream Gala brings more than 2,000 philanthropists, business leaders, and corporate partners together for an unforgettable evening. Featuring an expansive silent auction with hundreds of diverse packages, a one-of-a-kind live auction, a sit-down dinner, award-winning live entertainment, and JDRF’s signature “Fund A Cure” program allowing guests to make a direct impact on life-saving research, the One Dream Gala is one of the city’s few must-attend events.
Last year’s One Dream Gala raised an astonishing $4.9 million to support JDRF’s mission to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications. And with the powerhouse leadership behind this year’s Gala, the team is looking forward to another record-breaking year. Among them are Gala Co-Chairs Ken and Amy Aldridge, Fund A Cure Co-Chairs Michael and Sarah Alter, Fund A Cure Family David and Carrie Carlson, and Fundraising Chair Glen Tullman, in addition to corporate event sponsors including Allscripts, CIBC, ComEd, Ford, Kemper, NBC 5 Chicago, and Zeno Group, to name a few.
“Our family’s commitment to JDRF and our friends who work hard each year continues to deepen,” says Tullman, Chairman and CEO of Livongo Health. “As the Gala enters its 38th year, I am more motivated than ever to do everything I can to ensure a successful event which means more money dedicated to research which brings us that much closer to finding a cure for our loved ones.”
When asked if there is anything she hopes for, Luna says, “That there’s one day that I’d wake up and be free, just one day, or one minute, or just one hour. That would be the happiest I’ve ever been.”
YOU can help make Luna’s dream a reality and make a difference in the lives of the 1.25 million people living with this disease. Visit the JDRF Illinois website for more information on all the ways you can get involved and join JDRF in its pursuit to turn Type One into Type None!