Ms. Fisher goes to Washington

Ms. Fisher goes to Washington

CHAMPAIGN — Quinn Fisher was just 3 years old when type 1 diabetes burst into her life.

She has fragments of memories of that time — of her dad crying when they found out she was ill, of her parents rushing her to the hospital in St. Louis, of the traffic on that trip that made her mom say maybe they should call the police to help them get there faster and of the sight of the hospital when they finally arrived.

Seven years later, 10-year-old Quinn, of Champaign, has become something of an expert on living with the autoimmune disease and explaining it to others, and she'll be talking about it to officials in the nation's capital next month.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation chose Quinn to be one of four young delegates from Illinois and one of 160 nationwide to travel to Washington in July to speak to members of Congress to enlist their support for type 1 diabetes research and treatments.

Quinn, who will be entering the sixth grade this fall, easily explains the science behind her disease and demonstrates the equipment — things like the insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor — that she uses every day, many times a day.

A 100 reading on her glucose monitor is something to celebrate, she said.

"We also celebrate 111 and 123," she said.

What bothers her is the misinformation she hears, sometimes at school, about type 1 diabetes.

For example, some people don't make a distinction between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and say things like obesity and being a couch potato cause diabetes, she said.

"It hurts my feelings," Quinn said. "The teachers are telling everybody that diabetes is caused by obesity."

Being overweight and inactive are some of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes, a disease in which the body doesn't use insulin properly.

In type 1 diabetes, however, the body doesn't produce insulin, a hormone that allows foods to be used as energy or stored for further use. People can be at higher risk for type 1 diabetes if a family member has had the disease — though not everyone with type 1 diabetes, including Quinn, has a family history.

Quinn said she tries to correct the misunderstandings when she hears them.

If anybody ever associates her with being inactive, she can tell you otherwise: She studies tap and jazz dance, likes playing sports, playing out in her back yard and riding her bike. And, she adds, "my favorite food is fruit."

Please don't treat kids with type 1 diabetes differently than other kids, Quinn requests.

"We can still do the same things as everybody else," she said.

She and her mom, Leighann Calentine, also urge all parents to know the signs of the onset of type 1 diabetes: They include extreme hunger, increased thirst, frequent urination, irritability and mood changes and a sudden, unintended weight loss.

Calentine said this was the second time Quinn applied for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation event, which is every other summer, and Quinn and the other kids selected will get some training about how to talk to members of Congress.

In bringing children to Washington next month, the foundation said it hopes to stress the importance of congressional leadership in advancing research for improved treatments and prevention of type 1 diabetes.

Some 20,000 children and an equal number of adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with the disease every year, according to the organization.