Second baseman Cole Jordan looks every inch the varsity athlete he is as he slings a baseball to
friend and fellow Santiago High School Shark Dylan George.
Most days, both play the game without standing out for anything but a particular play -- unless
someone lifts up the sleeve of Jordan's jersey or looks at George's belt. There they'll see Jordan's
continuous glucose monitoring system or notice the pump on George's hip that regulates his blood sugar.
But both are aware, nearly every hour of the day, that they have Type 1 diabetes.
"People have this picture of what someone with diabetes looks like, and they're surprised when I tell them I have it," said Jordan, 17.
The face of Type 1 diabetes - sometimes known as juvenile diabetes because it's most often developed in childhood - is usually young people who have always eaten healthfully and stay active.
Ignorance of the symptoms can cost live, said Debbie George, founder of EASE T1D, a Corona-based nonprofit group dedicated to educating people about Type 1 diabetes.
"Because Type 2 diabetes affects 95 percent of the diabetic population, Type 1 diabetes which affects only 5 to 10 percent of the diabetic population, does not get the awareness it needs," said George, who is Dylan's mother. "...It's time this life-threatenting disease is brought to light. Children are dying from going undiagnosed and this needs attention."
Her 15-year-old son was misdiagnosed twice and almost died, she said, because neither she nor the doctors knew the symptoms. Every year, news reports include others who died because their Type 1 diabetes wasn't diagnosed in time.
What it looks like
Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are mistakenly
destroyed by the body's immune system, the JDRF reports. The organization once called itself Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation but now uses only the initials to acknowledge that more than 85 percent of people living with the disease are over 18.
Every year, more Americans are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
The number climbed 21 percent between 2001 and 2009, and JDRF predicts that by 2050 the number of diagnoses will quadruple, form 1.25 million to 5 million. That includes 121 students in the Corona-Norco Unified School District, George said.
A group of four Santiago High student-athletes, all friends of the George family, show the range
of Type 1 diabetes.
For Jordan, the symptoms came seemingly our of nowhere when he was 12.
Always an active child, he suddenly found himself constantly exhausted. He felt like he was drinking gallons of water and urinating frequently, but still couldn't quench his thirst. In the hospital, he was shocked to learn he had diabetes.
Dylan George's diagnosis came when he was 2, so he doesn't remember it. Debbie George vividly recalls the fear and frustration of a baby who had collapsed veins from dehydration and was in a life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, of DKA, before doctors knew what to do.
Riley Rosales, a 16-year-old water polo player at Santiago, went to the doctor in 2007 because he had been guzzling water and making frequent bathroom visits. The original diagnosis was a possible bladder or urinary tract infection. But on the way home, his mother, Keri, was called back to the doctor's office and told her son had Type 1 diabetes. Now Rosales is assisted every day by his do, Apollo.
Sierra Thornburg, 13, was 15 months old when she was diagnosed.
"I don't really see it as 'affecting me," said Thornburg, who plays volleyball at Santiago, "because it's how I've always been."
She's used to checking her blood sugar level every two hours - or more often when she sees other symptoms.
"When my blood sugar is low, I will feel shaky," Thornburg said. "I will trip at absolutely nothing. My mind get (foggy), blurry eyes, shaking, my hearing is impaired."
And when her blood sugar is high, she gets aggressive - sometimes to the point where her friends need to be firm with her.
"A lot of my friends know what to look for, and when my blood sugar is high, they'll say, 'No, your need to check your blood sugar," she said.
Many still don't know what signs to look for, Debbie George said.
That's why she will speak about diabetes at the Corona-Norco Unified School District's board meeting Tuesday, November 14, which is World Diabetes Day.
The district will join other local organizations that have recognized November as National Diabetes Month, but George said it's important that they do more, such as training staff and students to look out for symptoms.
School board President Bill Newberry, other board members and Corona-Norco school officials could not be reached for comment.
Everyone experiences diabetes differently, those who have it say, but Thornburg said she welcomes as much discussion as possible.
"A lot of people don't like having to answer a bunch of questions," she said. "I personally like when they ask questions, because it means they want to know more and want to help."
KNOW THE SIGNS
Type 1 diabetes can be found in children or adults. It often begins with a malaise and flu-like symptoms, specifically:
Itchy or dry skin
Unexplained weight loss
DIABETES BY THE NUMBERS
30.3 million: Americans with diabetes
1.25 million: Americans with Type 1 diabetes
200,000: Americans under 20 with Type 1 diabetes
5 million: Americans expected to have Type 1 diabetes by 2050
21 percent: Increase in Type 1 diabetes diagnoses, 2001-2009
$14 billion: Healthcare expenditures and lost income annually associated with Type 1 diabetes
Source: JDRF and American Diabetes Association
Type 1 diabetes: A disease in which insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are mistakenly destroyed by the body’s immune system.
Type 2 diabetes: A disease in which the body body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, the pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But over time the pancreas isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep blood glucose levels normal.
Continuous glucose monitoring: An FDA-approved device that provides ongoing readings of glucose levels throughout the day and night. The devices used by the Santiago students consist of a small sensor that measures glucose levels just underneath the skin, a transmitter and a receiver.
Diabetic ketoacidosis: A life-threatening condition that develops when the body’s cells can’t get the sugar (glucose) they need for energy because there is not enough insulin.
Source: American Diabetes Association
Santiago junior water polo goalie Riley Rosales, 16 suffers from Type 1 diabetes and is assisted throughout the day by his service dog, Apollo, his diabetic dog. Despite his medical condition Rosales is one of the top goalies in the area. (Photo by Will Lester - Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG