Making the Case for Diabetes Research; Two Children in the Same Family Are Diagnosed with Type 1

By Carter, John | The Florida Times Union, February 17, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Making the Case for Diabetes Research; Two Children in the Same Family Are Diagnosed with Type 1


Carter, John, The Florida Times Union


Byline: JOHN CARTER

She still has the bookmark her daughter made in the second grade.

It says: "I will find a cure for type 1 diabetes."

Casey Burkhalter wrote the message six years ago in support of her older brother, Tyler, who has juvenile diabetes.

Today, Casey, who is 13 and lives on the Southside, is even more motivated to find a cure.

Three years ago she was also diagnosed with the disease.

"It was quite a shock when they told me I had it," Casey said. "My mother had tried to prepare me - but I was sure it was something else. Eventually, it sank in."

Although Tyler had the disease, Leslie Burkhalter wasn't worried about her daughter because she was told the disease was not hereditary. Besides, neither she nor her husband has diabetes.

But there it was all of a sudden - reality: a definitive diagnosis. Both her children had juvenile diabetes.

"As a parent, you're devastated," Burkhalter said. "You just want to take it away from them. You don't want your child to suffer."

And she was in disbelief that her family was being hit twice with the disease.

"One is enough," she said. "It's pretty upsetting to think your children will be dealing with this serious disease and all the potential symptoms."

The disease also requires an inordinate amount of monitoring, management and medication.

Casey had always watched her brother deal with the daily injections of insulin. She worried about him, supported him. She even went to Capitol Hill with him a few years ago when he was a delegate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Children's Congress.

Guess what?

Now she's the one who'll be going to Congress to lobby members to fund research and find a cure for her disease. She's one of 150 children from throughout the United States headed to Washington as part of the Children's Congress.

The youngsters, aged 4 to 17, represent all 50 states and the District of Columbia and all have type 1 diabetes. They will be in Washington June 17-20 to remind legislators of the need to find a cure for the disease they live with every day. Because diabetes is perceived by many people as a manageable disease, they often don't realize the seriousness of the disease, Burkhalter said. But, she said, the day-to-day struggle to stay alive is a challenge for any family.

Actress Mary Tyler Moore, international chairwoman for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation - who has had diabetes for 35 years - has said the day you or your child are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes is a day you will never forget.

Casey and her family believe the day a cure is found will be one they won't forget as well.

Casey has always been athletic and has continued to stay active since her diagnosis.

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