Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease with no cure. In honor of National Diabetes Month, our Katie Gibas spoke with some young diabetics about the importance of awareness and education.
Frankie Palladino and Justin Henson look like normal eight and nine-year-olds. But, what you can't see is they're both type 1 diabetics.
"Before we knew I had type 1 diabetes, I keep getting shaky," said Frankie Palladino, a type 1 diabetic.
His friend, Justin Henson, who is also a type 1 diabetic added, "I like didn't really want to eat and I kept losing weight."
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease and doctors aren't sure what causes it. It usually manifests itself in early childhood, and both Frankie and Justin were diagnosed when they were six.
"That's the hardest part is the first year you're in a total fog and dealing with the grief," said Patty Palladino, Frankie's mother.
Erica Henson, Justin's mother added, "I knew at that point that his life was forever changed."
Even though there isn't a cure, Frankie and Justin have learned to manage their symptoms with insulin. They have to check their blood sugar by pricking their finger several times a day and then either have a snack or take an injection of insulin.
"Watching them get on the bus, and knowing that they aren't there with you. You don't have control. You don't get to be right there when they check their blood sugar and get to make that decision," said Michelle Dart, who is a pediatric nurse practitioner, Certified Diabetes Educator and also mother of a type 1 diabetic.
Frankie and Justin say one of the most frustrating things about the disease is the misconceptions people have about it.
"They're asking me, 'What's that cord for?' or 'Why are you going to the nurse so much?'" said Justin Henson.
Frankie Palladino added, "I want people to know that they don't have to ask me if I'm okay all the time."
Patty Palladino said, "The biggest misconception I find is people think he can prevent it or he can change it with a miracle diet that will cure him."
That's why advocates say increased education and awareness are crucial.
"If they have high blood sugars all day long, that's going to affect their long-term complications, so if the school personnel doesn't really understand it, it's going to be hard to manage it well at school," said Dart.
As for Frankie and Justin, they aren't letting diabetes get in the way of living a fun, active lifestyle.