Every carb counts in managing diabetes

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Submitted/Amanda Stafford, 13, of Egg Harbor Township tests her blood sugar before breakfast. Submitted/Amanda Stafford, 13, of Egg Harbor Township tests her blood sugar before breakfast.

Moms plan spaghetti dinner to help launch T1D support group

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Ten-year-old Amanda Stafford had been sick for more than three months, complaining of a slightly upset stomach. Some days she also had dry, itchy and red skin, and she had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night frequently.

She lost 22 pounds in a few months, but because she was entering her preteen years and was growing taller, her parents figured the change was related to her rapid growth.

Submitted/Taylor Dave, 19, of Egg Harbor Township, center, works as a counselor with the two others pictured at Camp Nejeda, a summer camp for Type 1 diabetic children. Submitted/Taylor Dave, 19, of Egg Harbor Township, center, works as a counselor with the two others pictured at Camp Nejeda, a summer camp for Type 1 diabetic children.

“We chalked it all up to flu season, allergy season, normal body changes from hormones, etc, etc. We never thought it was something serious,” her mother, April, said.
“Then, the weekend of her 11th birthday, we took a seven-hour car ride to my parents’ and we had to stop every hour for her to use the bathroom because she was downing water bottles in the backseat trying to satisfy an unquenchable thirst. It wasn't until that weekend that I thought something might be serious.”

She made an appointment for Amanda to see the pediatrician when they got back.

“She was immediately sent to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and hospitalized for four days.”

Type 1 diabetes, or T1D, is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food, according to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The disease causes the immune system to attack and destroy the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved, according to the site.

Like many other families, the Staffords had no family history of the disease, so the diagnosis came as a shock. As they learned more about the ailment, her mother reached out to other South Jersey families through the foundation and became close with two other mothers from Egg Harbor Township: Kimberely Hodson, whose son Tyler, 13, was diagnosed in July 2012, and Jane Davis, whose daughter, 18, was diagnosed in Nov. 2004.

“We met through mutual friends who knew we were going through the same things having T1D children,” April Stafford said. The women quickly decided a local support group was needed and launched South Jersey T1Ds in January.

“The closest support group to our area is in the Cherry Hill-Philadelphia area. We have relied on each other for support and help over the past two years, during times of fluctuating blood sugars and other frustrations as parents of T1Ds,” she said. “We founded the South Jersey T1Ds together so that other parents of T1Ds, or T1Ds themselves, can have someone to reach out to, meet occasionally with, and help raise money for the JDRF who strives to improve lives and find a cure for those afflicted with Type 1 diabetes.”

Now 13 and a seventh-grader at Fernwood Avenue Middle School, Amanda is managing her disease well, her mother said, but the tasks for those who suffer can feel endless.

Type 1 diabetics have to check their blood sugar through finger pricks before every meal, before bed, and if they are feeling high or low. This can be four to eight times per day, according to Stafford. 

“They have to count every carbohydrate they eat, and mathematically figure out how much insulin to take to cover the carbs and to correct any abnormal blood sugar. Amanda, Tyler and Taylor are on insulin pumps, a cellphone-sized device attached to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week which delivers insulin directly to their body through a site that is changed every three days.”

Those who do not use pumps get their insulin by injection. 

Diabetics have to be careful during any physical activity and aware of how they feel, as exercise lowers blood sugar and can drive them into a “low,” Stafford said. “If T1Ds do not take insulin, they will eventually die.”

“Awareness of the disease is very important because the symptoms are so easily overlooked until it is life-threatening,” she said. “Although there is no way to prevent the onset of T1D, it is very dangerous if it's not caught in time.”

To raise money for their fledgling awareness organization and for the JDRF, the South Jersey T1Ds are hosting a Community Spaghetti Dinner 4-8 Saturday, March 22 at Trinity Lodge 79, 563 Zion Road in Egg Harbor Township. For information see www.SouthJerseyT1Ds.com, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or connect on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/groups/Southjerseyt1ds.

Submitted/Tyler Hodsdon, 13, plays street hockey in Egg Harbor Township. Submitted/Tyler Hodsdon, 13, plays street hockey in Egg Harbor Township.


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