Rogers girl, 12, to meet law­mak­ers about di­a­betes

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - DAVE PEROZEK

ROGERS — Kat Lynch hopes to help law­mak­ers put a face to a disease when she trav­els to Wash­ing­ton this month to ad­vo­cate for ju­ve­nile di­a­betes re­search.

Kat, 12, of Rogers was one of 150 kids cho­sen from 1,300 ap­pli­cants na­tion­ally to par­tic­i­pate in the Ju­ve­nile Di­a­betes Re­search Foun­da­tion Chil­dren’s Congress.

The foun­da­tion pays all ex­penses of the three-day trip for each child and one adult who ac­com­pa­nies them. Kat will go with her mother, Veron­ica Lynch.

The chil­dren are sched­uled to meet with con­gress­men and sen­a­tors to talk about Type 1 di­a­betes and urge them to sup­port con­tin­ued fed­eral fund­ing of re­search into the disease.

“It’s a on­cein-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Kat, who will be a sev­enth-grader at Ben­tonville’s Ful­bright Ju­nior High School this fall.

The Chil­dren’s Congress is an “ex­tremely im­por­tant” part of the foun­da­tion’s ad­vo­cacy ef­fort that al­lows law­mak­ers to bet­ter un­der­stand Type 1 di­a­betes, said Sue Tull, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the foun­da­tion’s Arkansas chap­ter.

“They re­mem­ber that child’s face, and that per­son­al­izes this re­ally aw­ful disease to a con­gres­sional mem­ber and re­ally gives them the im­pe­tus to sup­port us with leg­is­la­tion,” Tull said. “It puts a face on an au­toim­mune disease that is a 24/7 strug­gle.”

Of par­tic­u­lar im­por­tance to the foun­da­tion is the Spe­cial Di­a­betes Pro­gram, which

pro­vides $150 mil­lion per year for Type 1 di­a­betes re­search at the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health. The pro­gram was last re­newed in 2015 for two years. The foun­da­tion this year is seek­ing a three-year re­newal.

“With that money we can cre­ate stuff like the ar­ti­fi­cial pan­creas to even­tu­ally turn Type 1 into type none,” Kat said.

U.S. Rep. Steve Wo­mack, a Repub­li­can from Rogers, has sup­ported the di­a­betes pro­gram in the past, said Heather Neil­son, Wo­mack’s press sec­re­tary.

“We don’t see any rea­son why he wouldn’t do so again this year,” Neil­son said.

About 35 kids from Arkansas ap­plied to be part of this year’s Chil­dren’s Congress. Garner Hodge, 16, of Lit­tle Rock was the only other Arkansan cho­sen, Tull said.

Lo­cal chap­ters of the foun­da­tion re­view the ap­pli­ca­tions

and add their com­ments be­fore for­ward­ing them to a com­mit­tee at the na­tional level that chooses the del­e­gates, Tull said.

Kat spoke at the foun­da­tion’s gala in Ben­tonville this year, where she “brought down the house,” Tull said.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. She was un­be­liev­able, speak­ing about her ex­pe­ri­ence and what [the foun­da­tion] has done for her,” Tull said.

Kat was 7 years old when it be­came ap­par­ent some­thing wasn’t right. She was un­usu­ally hun­gry and thirsty, was suf­fer­ing from nau­sea and los­ing weight. Her par­ents took her to a doc­tor, who told them Kat had a virus.

Only af­ter buy­ing a home blood test­ing kit did they find Kat’s blood sugar level was ex­traor­di­nar­ily high, lead­ing to her Type 1 di­a­betes di­ag­no­sis.

More than 29 mil­lion Amer­i­cans have one of the two types of di­a­betes, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Disease

Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. Type 1 ac­counts for about 5 per­cent of di­a­betes cases.

A per­son with Type 1 di­a­betes does not pro­duce in­sulin, a hor­mone needed to con­vert sugar, starches and other food into en­ergy needed for daily life.

Type 2 di­a­betes, the far more com­mon type, typ­i­cally de­vel­ops dur­ing adult­hood and is the re­sult of the body be­ing un­able to use in­sulin the right way. Type 2, un­like Type 1, can be pre­vented or at least de­layed with a healthy life­style.

Those with Type 1 di­a­betes have done noth­ing to bring the disease upon them­selves, said Jeff Lynch, Kat’s fa­ther.

“There’s no change in diet to fix it. There’s no change in diet to pre­vent it. It just hap­pens,” he said.

Re­search and tech­nol­ogy, how­ever, have made Kat’s life eas­ier. She wears a con­tin­u­ous glu­cose mon­i­tor on her belly that mea­sures her blood sugar level once ev­ery five min­utes — an easy al­ter­na­tive to man­ual fin­ger pricks through­out the day to check lev­els man­u­ally.

Most ex­cit­ing to di­a­bet­ics is the on­go­ing de­vel­op­ment of an ar­ti­fi­cial pan­creas that mod­er­ates blood sugar lev­els just like a nor­mal pan­creas does.

“That means no more blood sugar tests, no more nee­dles, no more shots and I don’t have to worry about my blood sugar go­ing high or my blood sugar go­ing low. I can feel free,” Kat said.

The Chil­dren’s Congress is more than just an op­por­tu­nity to ad­vo­cate for di­a­betes re­search; it’s also a chance for the par­tic­i­pants to hone their com­mu­ni­ca­tion and lead­er­ship skills, Tull said.

“They have to know what ad­vo­cacy is­sues are most im­por­tant to us as an or­ga­ni­za­tion and com­mu­ni­cate those to the leg­is­la­tors in an ar­tic­u­late man­ner,” she said.

Kat Lynch

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