In Search of…Living with Juvenile Diabetes

LA CROSSE, Wis. – It’s 6:45 in the morning and 10 year old Merideth Quarberg is getting ready for the day. Which starts with the first check of her blood sugar levels. Merideth was diagnosed with type one diabetes when she was just 6- years-old after experiencing some strange changes in her health. “I noticed she was going to the bathroom a lot. Then that week, more of that…drinking a lot. In my mind I’m thinking urinary tract infection,” says Merideth’s mom Gail Quarberg.

Type one diabetes most commonly appears during adolescence. It’s very different than the more talked about type two diabetes which often is triggered by obesity and poor diet. “You know, I really tell the families it’s bad luck,” says Gundersen Lutheran Pediatric Endocrinologist Jennifer McVean. “It’s nothing that the child did, it’s nothing that the family did. It’s just very unfortunate.”

Within hours of Merideth’s diagnosis, the Quarberg’s began to learn just how life changing this diagnosis would be. “It’s a life long disease. It’s an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. Insulin is needed anytime you eat something with carbs and because the body isn’t making insulin, we have to give insulin.”

“Right away it was almost like having an infant. Because you have to be there every morning and every night to give shots,” says dad Brad Quarberg.

And the shots are just the beginning. The Quarberg family had to learn how to test Merideth’s blood sugar which involves a finger prick at least 6 times a day. They had to learn to give insulin and just how much insulin to give which involves counting every single carbohydrate that goes into Meredith’s mouth. They had to loop her school in and make sure they could handle all her checks.

Merideth was relieved to hear there were other students at her school with the same condition. “There are 3 other kids in my school who have it. Before lunch, I’ll go down to the office, check my blood. And then I’ll go to lunch and then I’ll go to lunch and then after lunch I go back to the health room and figure how much carbs I ate.”

“It’s a good thing it’s her and not him…I love you but it’s true. She’s been a trooper and has been since day one. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have times when it doesn’t hurt and she cries. She rarely complains. She has a high tolerance for pain.”

Merideth now uses a pump that distributes the insulin to her body. She still needs to keep track of her carb intake and punch the information into the pumps computer, but she’s now able to avoid the painful daily injections.

“Diabetes is stressful when you first get it, but after awhile it’s not that bad. Don’t be afraid to ask what the pump is or is it an i-pod. I’ll explain it to you.”

In reality, this disease is a huge responsibility, especially for someone so young. But this is the Quarberg’s new normal and they are adjusting the best they know how. “It’s challenging in some ways to try and give her the responsibility even though she’s little. But she’s gotta have it because down the line we’re not gonna be there.”

“I say, ‘your kids are going to do the same things they did before. They’re gonna be on the swim team and go to college and get married someday if they want. They can do just about anything. That being said, it is a big adjustment.”

This weekend, there is a 2-K walk to help raise money for juvenile diabetes research. It’s Sunday, October 3rd at Myrick Park. Registration starts at noon, the walk is at one. For more information you can go to www.jdrf.org.

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