It wasn’t until after harvest was complete that Christine Wedrick’s husband, Trevor, would take the time to go to the doctor.
Trevor is a tall fellow, but in fall 2012, he’d drastically and unexpectedly lost weight, concerning both family and friends.
A battery of tests at the doctor’s office revealed that Trevor’s blood sugar was “extremely high,”
Wedrick said, and the doctor sent Trevor home with pills used by people with Type II diabetes.
They didn’t work, according to Wedrick, and the couple travelled to Red Deer where, at the diabetic clinic, Trevor was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, a disease most often diagnosed in children.
The pair’s life has changed in small but dramatic ways in the two years since diagnosis, and one way is their involvement in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), which raises money for use in research and education in Type I diabetes.
On Wednesday, June 4, Wedrick brought three tables of baked goods, most made herself but some by family and friends, and set up a bake sale to raise money for Team Green, her team in the upcoming Telus Walk to Cure Diabetes, scheduled for June 22 in Red Deer.
Both she and Trevor will be walking with hundreds of others that day, all bringing in pledges to help support JDRF’s research.
Eighty per cent of all funds gathered by JDRF goes to research or research- based education, according to JDRF representative and Stettler resident Melissa Zimmermann.
Zimmermann’s son, Carter, was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at 15 months of age, and this year is the walk’s ambassador at the strapping and healthy age of five.
The disease has altered the course of the lives of both the Wedrick and Zimmermann families.
There are needles every day – a minimum of four for Trevor, unless his blood sugar level is skewed and requires more maintenance, meaning more shots. Carter also has to endure several insulin shots daily.
Unlike Type II diabetes, which can be managed through diet and exercise, Type I diabetes is caused when the body attacks the pancreas, which creates insulin. Over time, the pancreas stops releasing insulin into the body and shrivels up and dies.
Since the disease is auto-immune, a transplant isn’t much of an option since the body would just attack the new, transplanted organ.
Without insulin, the body cannot process sugar, and it gathers in the blood vessels. Signs of diabetes present itself in Type I sufferers with weight loss, frequent urination, fruity-smelling breath, lethargy and shakes, to name a few.
Without insulin injections, death is inevitable.
It’s not as simple as just a few needles of insulin a day, Wedrick notes. Both she and Trevor count calories in everything he eats, since he has to take those numbers to help calculate what sort of insulin dose he will need to compensate for the sugar.
Since Trevor is in a “honeymoon phase” where his pancreas is still producing some insulin, his blood sugar levels sometimes plummet, and other times spike, meaning he always has snacks on hand to help him if his sugar levels drop too low because he has too much insulin in his system.
It’s been a change of life for both families.
That’s why Zimmermann and Wedrick are going to be walking later this month.
“There’s research going on in islet transplant,” Zimmermann said. “Islets are the part of the pancreas that dies in Type I diabetes.”
Research has developed items like insulin pumps, which help manage Type I diabetes in people who have difficulty managing blood sugar and insulin levels, making the process more automatic and less hands-on.
There’s research into implant-type treatment that could see tea-bag like items implanted under the skin that help regulate the disease, research that is in part funded by events like the Telus Walk to Cure Diabetes.
Someday, both Wedrick and Zimmermann say they hope there will be a cure for people with diabetes. Until then, they’ll bake sale and walk to help get there.