Penn Township Girl Goes to Washington to Testify about Research Funding

By Kaufman, Dirk W. | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 2, 2007 | Go to article overview

Penn Township Girl Goes to Washington to Testify about Research Funding


Kaufman, Dirk W., Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The thing is, you expect any 14-year-old girl who met, say, country music star Trisha Yearwood, would gush about that first.

Or maybe she'd talk about meeting a U.S. senator or U.S. representative in the flesh.

Those moments are important to Chelsea Loughner, but raising awareness of juvenile diabetes and the need for research funding are remarkably more important to her.

Chelsea, of Penn Township, along with 9-year-old Dalton Merichko, of New Alexandria, was one of 150 youth delegates to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's children's congress, held in mid- June in Washington, D.C.

Chelsea, soon to be a freshman at Penn-Trafford High School, has been participating in research foundation events for 11 years.

"I get more nervous giving a speech in front of my class than I am doing JDRF stuff," Chelsea said this week.

The congress, which is held every two years, is an opportunity for youths with diabetes to meet with senators and representatives who will decide how much money will go toward diabetes research.

The research foundation is working to ensure a five-year funding level is held at $150 million and hoping it can increase funding to $200 million. The money is distributed by the National Instittues of Health.

Linda Loughner, Chelsea's mother, serves as the research foundation's Family Outreach Coordinator for Westmoreland County. Through that work, she sees how families react to learning a child has diabetes.

According to the research foundation, diabetes is a chronic, debilitating disease affecting every organ system. There are two major types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person's pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables people to get energy from food.

Type 1 diabetes usually strikes in childhood, adolescence, or young adulthood, but lasts a lifetime. People with type 1 diabetes must take multiple injections of insulin daily or continuous infusion of insulin through a pump just to survive. Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which a person's body still produces insulin but is unable to use it effectively.

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