Community pedals for diabetes research

Diabetes is a disease that “completely changes your life” and that prompted the staff at the Stettler branch

Independent reporter Joel van der Veen

Independent reporter Joel van der Veen

Diabetes is a disease that “completely changes your life” and that prompted the staff at the Stettler branch of Scotia Bank as well as many people in the community to pedal for the JDRF Ride for Diabetes Research.

The ride takes place today, Oct. 1, in Red Deer, but in lead up to the event people cycled on stationary bikes set up in the Scotia Bank lobby.

Independent reporter Joel van der Veen was one of those cyclists, and he went through a vigorous bit of cycling coached by fitness trainer Robin Schwartz.

“It was a solid workout,” van der Veen said. “It was harder than I expected. Alternating between sitting and standing (on the bike) was definitely hard work.”

Van der Veen raised about $100 in pledges. The person with the highest number of pledges was Troy Nelson, who brought in $400. Altogether, combined with a silent auction, a Beef on a Bun sale, and donations, the Sept. 25 event brought in roughly $5,000.

Philippa Brysiuk, a financial advisor at the bank, organized the event. She has Type II diabetes herself, a disease which causes the body to be resistant to insulin. The money raised in the ride will go to a different type of diabetes, Type I diabetes, in which the pancreas stops producing insulin altogether.

The disease, which is fatal if not treated with insulin injections, afflicts her grandson, Carter.

“Carter was diagnosed at 15 months (of age),” Brysiuk explained. “He’s six now. (At the time) he was completely lethargic and eventually unresponsive. He had to be airlifted to Calgary. It was a bad time.”

Brysiuk said that Type I diabetes is so different than Type II that it’s “almost a completely different disease.”

Type II diabetes is often associated with obesity, since it is caused by a resistance to insulin, a result of high-carbohydrate diets. Type I diabetes, on the other hand, affects people regardless of weight, and is caused by an autoimmune reaction that kills the pancreas’ beta cells.

“It completely changes your life,” she said. “You have to be aware of the carbohydrates in everything.”

The disease was a terminal diagnosis until the discovery of injectable insulin, which prolongs the life of people who suffer from the disease. Daily blood sugar tests are necessary and there are plenty of side effects, including decreased blood flow to the extremities, which sometimes results in amputation, as well as blindness.

In some cases, insulin injections are not enough. A person can follow their routine rigorously and still go into insulin or sugar shock and die, Brysiuk said.

Research in the past 20 years has led to such improvements like the insulin pump, a small device surgically implanted into a person with Type I diabetes. It adapts to blood sugar levels to ensure the right amount of insulin is injected into the body and has increased the lifespan as well as quality of life of people who suffer from Type I diabetes.

Today, research has led to the creation of an artificial pancreas, pancreas transplants, and the transplant of beta cells to the pancreas. Research into what causes the immune reaction that kills the organ’s cells is ongoing as well.

Money raised by JDRF (Juvenile diabetes research foundation) is used on cure, treatment, prevention and general research, all toward the goal of preventing the disease, curing the disease, and improving the life of those who suffer the disease.

For more information, visit www.jdrf.ca or phone 1-877-CURE-533.