Diabetes: Hoping, and helping, to find a cure

Volunteer/Where good neighbor get together

October 01, 1991|By Ellen Hawks | Ellen Hawks,Evening Sun Staff

EVERY DAY, 23-month-old Sean Michels must have two insulin injections and have his finger pricked with a needle several times to test his blood glucose. Sean has juvenile diabetes.

Sharon and Timothy Michels give their son the shots and tests, hoping against all hope that a cure will be found for his disease. ''It was the most devastating thing we could imagine,'' says Sharon, 33, a homemaker. Timothy is an attorney with the Stephen L. Miles firm. They have two other children, daughters Jennifer, 3 1/2 , and Caitlin, 4 months.

Sharon volunteers to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and hopes the foundation's Oct. 13th fund-raiser at the Baltimore Zoo ''will bring in much money for research.''

Diabetes affects one out of every 20 Americans and one out of every 300 children, according to Timothy J. O'Neill, executive director of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. ''Last year alone [diabetes] claimed more than 200,000 lives,'' he says.

The foundation's Seventh Annual Walk-A-thon is its first at the zoo. ''Walk on the Wild Side'' will begin with 9 a.m. registration near the front gate at the mansion house. A 6K walk begins at 10 a.m. and walkers will go through some of the zoo's 150 acres and past its more than 1,000 animals. Admission to the zoo will be free and walkers are urged to form walk teams and collect pledges based on completing the 10-cage checkpoints. Also, a $2 donation gives participants the chance to win a Caribbean cruise aboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines. For more details of this walk call 356-4555.

The Michel family will be walking, or riding in strollers, and hoping for many pledges from family and friends to raise as much as they can for research to cure -- or to find better ways to treat -- juvenile diabetes.

Sharon Michel says their son's experience with diabetes has left them devastated and they pray a lot. ''It began when Sean was 9 months old and had a virus he couldn't seem to get rid of," she says. "We didn't suspect at first but he had all of the classic symptoms of diabetes. He was so thirsty all the time and he wet diaper after diaper and seemed so tired. It scared us so much.''

They aren't sure why such a disease hit someone in their family. Sharon says it's been suggested that perhaps Sean had a genetic propensity to diabetes. "We've been told he will always be dependent on insulin until we find a cure,'' she says.

O'Neill, executive director of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, located at 9133 Reisterstown Road, says he has a staff of one, his administrator, Mashe Katz.

''We need help in offering an information and referral service, with educational brochures, [and] a speakers bureau of volunteers who visit and make presentations in schools," he says. "And we offer a patient liaison in which those with diabetes volunteer to help and advise those who have just discovered they have it,'' he adds, noting that the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation has been in existence for 20 years and has 115

chapters worldwide.

The Maryland chapter has been in existence for 10 years and has six support groups statewide which meet monthly. ''The District of Columbia is responsible for Prince George's and Montgomery counties and we have the other state counties,'' says O'Neill. Call him or Katz at the foundation, 356-4555, for details of the walk or to volunteer.

Also, Sharon Michel says she is anxious for suggestions of other ways to raise funds for the foundation. Leave a message for her at the foundation.

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