Houston first-grader raises awareness about juvenile diabetes

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - Every day someone in the city of Houston is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

On Saturday, 15,000 Houstonians will lace up their sneakers for the 2012 Walk to Cure Diabetes.

Among them will be a Houston girl who has her entire first grade class behind her.

With the help of her school nurse and teacher, Caris Lauritsen, 6, checks her blood sugar levels multiple times during the school day by pricking her finger.

When asked, "Does it hurt?" She shrugged, "No because I've done it a million times."

Caris wears an insulin pump and continuing glucose monitor.

She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes five years ago.

Her mom, Freyja, told Local 2, "I started noticing that she was excessively thirsty and excessively needing to go to the bathroom all the time."

The condition is often misdiagnosed.

But when a diabetic's blood sugar level peaks or drops, it can be life-threatening.

Her mom said, "She actually was told in the ER that she was hours from a coma."

Caris' family created a short video to share her story with her classmates at The Grace School.

The families were so moved, they're joining Caris for the Walk to Cure Diabetes benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The walk celebrates kids like Caris who, because of their condition, are forced to grow up fast.

JDRF Houston Gulf Coast Chapter Executive Director Molly Naylor told Local 2, "They all lose their childhood. So they're special in a not good way 364 days out of the year, but on walk day, they're special for an extraordinary reason."

Symptoms of T1D include: frequent urination, excessive thirst, fatigue and sudden weight loss.

The complications can range from kidney failure and blindness to amputations, even heart attack and stroke.

It can strike adults and kids at any age.

Naylor added, "Type 1 is actually increasing by five percent a year and five percent does sound like much, but when you take that over a decade what that means is 10 years from now, there will be 50 percent more people being diagnosed."

Money raised from the walk goes toward research and developing new technology which helps diabetics like Caris live as normal a life as possible.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month so JDRF will host two walks, bringing together more than 15,000 people and 200 companies to support increased awareness and research to cure type 1 diabetes.

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