Girl takes diabetes campaign to Ottawa
12-year-old granddaughter of West Kelowna city councillor lobbies federal politicians
West Kelowna’s Arielle Findlater is making a difference in the fight to cure and prevent Type 1 diabetes after travelling to Parliament Hill in Ottawa to lobby members of Parliament and senators.
The 12-year-old was among 28 young people selected from across Canada to take part in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Kids for a Cure Lobby Day at the end of October.
Findlater, granddaughter of Coun. Doug Findlater, met with parliamentarians and showed them her scrapbook that documents her diagnosis and her life with Type 1 diabetes to inform them and put a face to the disease.
The group of young people had 90 meetings with more than 100 parliamentarians, including the ministers of health and national revenue and a dozen senators.
The kids asked for support for the foundation’s recommendations, including: amending the Income Tax Act to clarify that carbohydrate calculation is part of calculating insulin dosage, making it an eligible activity for the disability tax credit; a national diabetes registry for Type 1 diabetes patients; including various types of insulin under national pharmacare programs; and new funding for research aimed at curing, preventing and treating the disease.
Findlater met with Cathy McLeod, member of Parliament for Kamloops-Thompson-Caribou; Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich-Gulf Islands and leader of the Green Party of Canada; Dan Albas, MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola; Sonia Sidhu, member for Brampton South; and Senator Yonah Martin.
Findlater said she liked Albas the best because he was super friendly and the only one who took notes.
Arielle was seven years old when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that allows people to get energy from food. There was no history of the disease in her family. “It just came out of nowhere,” said Arielle’s father, Dave, who accompanied his daughter to Ottawa.
“Everything’s different,” Arielle said about her life after being diagnosed. “Every day, we have to carbcount tons.”
Counting carbohydrates determines how much insulin Findlater needs.
Findlater’s scrapbook documents the weeks she spent in Kelowna General Hospital after she was diagnosed, her time at diabetic camp, where she could relax and have fun with other Type 1 kids, as well as statistics including the more than 10,000 needles she used the first year she was diagnosed.
Findlater uses a number of gadgets to help keep her blood sugar in check, including an insulin pump.
She enters how many carbohydrates she ate, the pump does most of the math and shoots insulin through a cord into a site on her stomach.
It’s an improvement on the multiple daily injections she endured before getting the pump.
Findlater also has a constant glucose monitor that looks like an iPod attached to the back of her arm. She still has to prick her finger to test her blood sugar, but not as often.
Findlater matter-of-factly shows how she tests her blood sugar using a device with an infinitesimally thin needle to poke her finger to extract a drop of blood to test.
Back home in West Kelowna, Findlater said she feels she made a big difference. She will continue her advocacy at local fundraising events, such as the juvenile diabetes walk and the annual gala, in the hope of someday being able to snowboard, play soccer or go swimming without having to deal with low blood sugar.
For Findlater, a cure would mean no more finger pokes, no more needles and no more getting up during the night for a juice box because of her blood sugar.
“We’re actually in a position now that we could see diabetes cured or a completely revolutionary type of management hit our doorsteps within her lifetime,” said Dave.
Arielle Findlater, 12, shows off the scrapbook she made and brought to Parliament Hill in October as part of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Kids for a Cure Lobby Day.