School support for diabetics a success Children happy to find they are not alone

June 13, 1996|By A SUN STAFF WRITER

It was bad enough having to grow up with two younger sisters, but then Kristan Bosch learned that she had diabetes. Her sisters could have candy, and she couldn't, she complained.

Worse, she felt she was the only seventh-grader at Old Mill

Middle School with the disease until she learned about the support group founded by school nurse Beverly Lesher and met Becky, Christopher and Eric -- other Old Mill students with the disease.

"I've learned I'm not the only one with diabetes," Kristan said. "That's cool."

Lesher, the nurse at Old Mill for three years, said she started the group in the fall after she met a seventh-grader who thought she was the only girl in the school with diabetes.

"She didn't have anyone to share with," Lesher said. "I thought [she] needed to know that there are other children who are also dealing with their disease, and it's not just themselves."

More than 258,000 people in Maryland have the disease, which attacks the pancreas and prevents the production of insulin, the protein that regulates the body's storage and use of sugars, said Neil McCabe, executive director of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

The juvenile form of the disease can be regulated with daily insulin, while the adult type can be treated with supervised exercise and strict diet, he said.

Lesher said the group meets every month to talk, play games and snack on low-sugar foods. More importantly, the children discuss their experiences and ideas about growing up with diabetes.

"You like to hear what's going on with the other people in the group," said seventh-grader Becky Stinchcomb.

Lesher said the most difficult part of being a diabetic teen-ager is feeling like an outcast among other students.

"They don't want to be different," she said. "They don't want anyone to know about [the disease]. They don't want to be singled out."

Lesher said she has seen the children talking with each other in the hallways at school.

"That sort of indicates to me that they're bonding as a group," she said. "They have felt that they can depend on each other."

She also said the middle school's support group has been so successful that Old Mill High School is planning to start a support group next fall.

Much of group's success stems from Lesher herself, the students said.

"She's cool," said eighth-grader Eric Radford. "She lets us do stuff, and she's not mean."

"She cares about our needs," seventh-grader Christopher Osborn said. "She listens to us."

Pub Date: 6/13/96

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