MATTOON — Kennedy Smith was just 3 years old when she was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes; her brother Colton followed at only 6 years of age.
“When I found out, I was mad,” Colton said. “I didn’t want it.”
Colton, now 7, and Kennedy, 5, are the children of Arland D. Williams, Jr. Elementary School second-grade teacher Sara Smith and Matt Smith of Consolidated Communications, who said it was jarring when they discovered that two out of their three children had Type 1 diabetes.
“Diabetes doesn’t run in our family so I was in total shock — I didn’t want to believe that they had it,” Sara Smith said. “I was also overwhelmed because I didn’t know anything about diabetes until they were diagnosed.”
The doctors diagnosed Kennedy with Type 1 diabetes in February 2012 and Colton in April 2012 — in both cases it was found early, Smith said.
Kennedy started showing warning signs like excessive thirst, bed wetting and weight loss. Smith said Colton followed with the same symptoms shortly after.
Since their diagnosis, Colton and Kennedy have to check their blood sugar up to six times a day.
“They are insulin dependent and have to have insulin with every meal,” Smith said. “This is now a 24-hour-a-day job with keeping their blood sugar in the normal range.”
Smith said Colton is at the age where he understands his diagnosis, but Kennedy was too young at the time.
“I don’t think Kennedy will ever understand life before having diabetes,” Smith said.
When Smith found out two out of her three children had diabetes, she was afraid that Kennedy’s twin Kyle would also develop the disease, but so far that’s not the case.
“We check Kyle’s blood sugar once a month,” Smith said. “The doctors told us that he has no greater of a risk to get it then any other kid.”
Smith said after learning and managing her two children’s diabetes, she refused to stay idle and wanted to help find a cure, so she held a fundraiser on Sept. 28.
“I hoped it would help speed along the process to find a cure for diabetes,” Smith said.
The Fall Festival Diabetes Fundraiser featured pumpkins that the Smith family grew themselves as well as a lunch and bake sale to help raise money.
Some $4,500 were raised at the event, where all proceeds went to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in New York. Smith said she was surprised and thankful for how much money was donated to the cause.
The fundraiser was so successful that Smith said she plans on making it an annual event.
November is American Diabetes Month, and Smith said she wants to spread awareness and educate people on the condition.
“Just because they have diabetes doesn’t change who they are,” Smith said.
“They can do the same things as other kids do; they just have to have insulin with their food.”
Around 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes and about 79 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association website.
Smith said she wants to shatter the misconception that all kids who have diabetes don’t eat healthy diets or are overweight. She added that her kids have always eaten well and are at a healthy weight.
“People think that this happens to kids who eat too much or eat a lot of sugar,” Smith said. “My kids eat well and still have it.”
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