Emma Sabourin, 10, and Sarah Sabourin, 13, were recently honored by the Joslin Diabetes Center, Boston, for their advocacy of the disease.
MIDDLETOWN – Julia Sabourin admitted she felt overwhelmed when two of her daughters were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes two years apart. She wondered how she could do it.
"But you know," Sabourin said at his home in Middletown on Wednesday morning. "You do it because you have to."
Emma Sabourin, 10, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2014. She was a first-grade student at St. Philomena School in Portsmouth. Emma's family took her to the pediatrician when she began to lose weight and suffered from a seemingly insatiable thirst. When Sarah, 13, began to experience similar symptoms two years later in the spring of 2016, she was later diagnosed with the same condition. Emma is now a fifth year student at St. Philomena School, and Sarah is in eighth grade.
On Wednesday morning, the sisters sat side by side on the couch and discussed how they handle the symptoms and contribute to the awareness and advocacy campaigns for type 1 diabetes. They were recognized on November 3 as Spotlight on honorees Hope this year at the 19th High Hopes Gala of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston for his diabetes advocacy. The girls are patient in downtown Boston.
"It was like we were famous," Sarah said as she recalled the event. They spoke naturally about the condition and exchanged shy smiles with each other over the discussion.
Type 1 diabetes – formerly known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes – is usually diagnosed in children, adolescents, and young adults, but can also develop at any other age, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.
People with type 1 diabetes have pancreas that do not produce enough insulin or do nothing. Insulin is a hormone that allows blood sugar to enter the body's cells, where it can be used as energy. Without insulin, blood sugar can not get into the cells and builds up in the bloodstream; High blood sugar causes many of the symptoms and complications of diabetes, including extreme thirst, extreme hunger, weight loss and fatigue.
Some people have certain genes that make them more likely to develop type 1 diabetes, although many do not develop the disease, even if they have these genes. Diet and lifestyle habits do not cause type 1 diabetes, according to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2 diabetes. For people with type 2 diabetes, their bodies do not use insulin properly, according to the American Diabetes Association website. At first, the body produces extra insulin to compensate for food intake, but over time, the pancreas can not keep up with normal blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes can be treated with changes in lifestyle, medication and insulin doses.
There is no cure for type 1 diabetes, but it can be treated by the administration of insulin – via injection or pump – and following a healthy diet and exercise regimen.
The girls learned how to control and monitor their symptoms with the help of their family, including their father, Jon, and his older sister, Katie, 15. They also depend on each other. Emma reminded her sister to press certain buttons on her insulin pump if she forgot; she nudges her sister to get some juice when she needs a diet stabilizer.
Emma referred to her continuous glucose monitor as her "bling" hardware. The monitor tracks your blood sugar levels throughout the day, every day. The information is collected using small sensors placed under the skin of the belly or attached to the back of the arm.
Before her daughters were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, Julia believed that the disease required mainly dietary sugar intake, she said. But the treatment of the disease is more complex and nuanced. She explained the need to count carbohydrates every day and the potential for blood sugar to reach harmful levels while a person sleeps. "This is minute-by-minute monitoring," Julia said.
As the mother of young children with the disease, it was too much to deal with, Julia said. But the family adapted.
In April, the Sabourins hosted a 5-mile fundraising event at St. George's School, where Julia works in the admissions department. Dragon Dash raked in about $ 6,000 for the Joslin Diabetes Center. They plan to hold a similar fundraiser in May. The Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston has been a great resource for the family, Julia said, and the Sabourins wanted to give back to the center that gave the family such crucial care. She also credited technology aids such as Figwee, a smartphone application designed for diabetics, on the journey to managing diabetes for their daughters.
Julia said that hormones, stress and exercise can affect the diabetic's blood sugar levels, but she does not want her daughters bowing to the disease. "I do not want them to be controlled by diabetes," she said.
Girls lead active and normal lives out of diagnosis. Emma enjoys cooking, gardening, swimming, canoeing and fishing. Sarah played lacrosse and basketball, gardens, paddleboats and nothing. Sarah said that "it was easier" to deal with the diagnosis and learning curve of monitoring her diabetes, since her sister was already dealing with the disease two years ago. "I knew what to do," Sarah said.
Sarah said she wants people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes to know it's easier.
"My hope as a parent is to educate people," added Julia.