LAKESIDE — Kimberly Ring thought something was off when her 6-year-old son Quaid was constantly sneaking out of his bedroom at night to drink water.
But a trip to the doctor quickly solved the mystery: Quaid had Type 1 diabetes. Six years after his diagnosis, Quaid, now 12, is traveling to Washington D.C. to lobby for diabetes research as part of the JDRF 2017 Children’s Congress. The annual event brings kids from all across the country to speak to members of Congress about the importance of research funds and health care.
Quaid’s trip comes as Congress debates the future of health care and whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Kimberly said while the ACA legislation isn’t perfect, it has helped families like hers afford insulin, which is critical to treating Quaid’s condition.
“If your insurance provider does not cover insulin, I don’t know how anyone could afford it because Quaid and others like him need it every day,” she said.
Diabetes is a disorder where the body has trouble regulating its blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels. With Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body still produces insulin but is unable to use it effectively. To keep the disease at bay, people with diabetes must take insulin injections, but that’s not a long-term cure.
According to JDRF, 1.25 million Americans have Type 1 diabetes, and the number of young people with the condition increased by 21 percent between 2001 and 2009.
Quaid wears a glucose monitor constantly so that he can watch his insulin levels. If his blood sugar levels get too high or too low, he has to adjust his activity and administer insulin. Quaid said the monitor triggers an alarm when his levels are too high or low, and he often worries that it distracts his classmates at school. He also frequently has to take breaks from playing his favorite game, soccer, to deal with his condition.
“If they could come up with a better way to deal with diabetes, kids like me would have a much easier life,” Quaid said. “It’s not fun having to sit out parts of games because you have diabetes, but you have to take care of yourself.”
Quaid hopes to meet with Montana Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte during the July 23-26 trip to talk about the importance of funding diabetes research. The federal government has spent $300 million on research since 2015, but that fund is expected to expire this fall.
The Rings, who live in Lakeside, hope research will eventually lead to a cure.
“It’s a constant puzzle trying to figure out how to get Quaid’s blood sugar stable,” Kimberly said. “It’s not a carefree life for him.”