Monday, September 22, 2003

17 million Americans receiving treatments

Walk to Cure Diabetes: Remedy still elusive

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDEPENDENCE - The two 8-year-olds playing hoops in the driveway of an Independence home certainly don't look sick.

Amanda Johnson, wearing her favorite American Idol T-shirt, giggles after hoisting up an air ball. Her Taylor Mill Booster teammate, David Flack, flat out guffaws as he chases the ball out to Walnut Hall Drive. His attire of choice on a late summer afternoon: a black T-shirt featuring the cartoon characters from SpongeBob SquarePants.

But then the game stops. It's time for Amanda's shot.

"She never complains," said her doting mother, Candy. "She just sits down and let's me stick her."

David and Amanda are diabetic.

The needles provide insulin, a protein hormone that helps the body turn sugar and other carbohydrates into energy for the body. Diabetics don't produce enough insulin, so without daily injections there is too much sugar in the body. And that can lead to hunger, weight loss, headaches, seizures and frequent urination.

David was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when he was just about 2 years old. Doctors discovered Amanda carried the illness just five months ago.

They are two among 17 million Americans suffering from a treatable but incurable malady that is the nation's sixth-most lethal disease and the leading cause of kidney failure, adult blindness and amputations not caused by trauma.

Pretty scary stuff for a little kid. Downright terrifying for a parent.

"I think about it, and I just get too emotional," said Amanda's father, Jim Johnson, who was diagnosed three years ago with diabetes.

"That's why we try to concentrate on something positive, trying to raise money for a cure," he says.

Amanda, David and their parents have been asking for and collecting donations for Saturday's Walk to Cure Diabetes, an annual fund-raiser sponsored by the Cincinnati chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It will be held at two locations:

• Paramount's Kings Island, registration at 7:30 a.m. with the walk beginning at 9 a.m.

• The World Peace Bell Park at Fourth and York streets, Newport, registration at 9 a.m. with the walk at 10 a.m.

Contributions are still being accepted and walkers can join the day of the event.

Though Amanda and David both attend Whites Tower Elementary in Kenton County, they met last winter while playing on the same basketball team. They and their families became friends.

"We knew that David had diabetes, so when Amada was diagnosed we leaned on Cheryl for a lot of advice and support," Candy Johnson said.

"We've been through it for a lot of years," Flack said. "So we just try to help in any way we can. Sometimes, they just need somebody to talk to. I know where they're coming from. I know it can be scary."

With the help of their parents, a number of local businesses and Amanda's cousin, Emily Hurt, the children have raised several hundred dollars for Saturday's fund-raiser, most of it $1 at a time by knocking on doors or standing in front of area stores asking for donations.

In a fund-raising letter, David said even though he has diabetes, "I like to do anything other kids do, such as swim, play basketball ... and play baseball, too."

"Right now there's no cure," David said as he headed back to the basketball game with Amanda. "The money we raise is going to help find one so someday other kids won't have to worry about needles."

To help

Contributions for the Walk to Cure Diabetes can be made to the two families: The Flacks, 790 Jimae Ave., Independence, KY 41051; or the Johnsons, 44 Walnut Hall Drive, Independence, KY 41051. For information on the walks call (513) 793-3223.

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