Toledo youth takes diabetes message to D.C.Written by Autumn Lee | | firstname.lastname@example.org
By James Proffitt
Special to Toledo Free Press
Like many 8-year-olds this summer, Nicole Herndon will attend summer camp. But not just one. While she’s already finished a swimming camp, she’ll soon attend one for ballet, one for gymnastics and yet another just for children with type 1 diabetes. In addition to her list of camps, Herndon will spend her busy summer vacation working tirelessly to accomplish one major goal: finding a cure for type 1 diabetes for herself and the more than 3 million other Americans who suffer from it.
Herndon was in Washington D.C. accompanied by her mother Janette from June 17-20 to help push her vision. As a delegate of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s biennial Children’s Congress, she was one of more than 150 youth from 50 states and six nations who convened in the nation’s capital. The delegates, who all suffer from type 1 diabetes, assembled to encourage the federal government to increase funding for research. Delegates as young as 6 testified in Senate hearings. While there, Herndon met others with the chronic debilitating disease, spent time with celebrities who have also made finding a cure their goal and met with legislators to lobby on behalf of the JDRF.
Herndon was a guest in the offices of Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio’s ninth district and Ohio senator Sherrod Brown. When asked if she was nervous about the meetings, Herndon said, “No, I was happy.”
She said she already has plans to return at the next JDRF Children’s Congress in 2009. Although she enjoyed the sights of the city and a concert on the Capitol Lawn, Herndon said the time she spent there wasn’t a field trip or a vacation. Instead she described it as “A really important job.”
In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone that enables the body to get energy from food. The disease requires multiple blood tests and insulin injections every day and people with type 1 diabetes must constantly be prepared for life-threatening low or high blood-sugar levels. Janette Herndon said her daughter took an aggressive and determined stance from the very beginning.
Just two months after she was diagnosed, Janette Herndon said, Nicole had begun self-treatments. She described waking up one morning to find Nicole’s diabetic bag lying open on the bed.
“You were sleeping and I didn’t want to wake you up,” Nicole told her mother. Janette Herndon said Nicole has been that proactive ever since.
Herndon has made radio and television commercials for diabetes awareness and been interviewed by television stations. She is featured on JDRF postcards and in JDRF literature. As a result of her work in Washington, Herndon will address her school on type 1 diabetes and make appearances at summer camps and before other groups.
Janette Herndon said her daughter is always saying, “We have to do this, Mommy, we have to find a cure. We have to do this so other kids don’t have to go through what I have to.”
Herndon endures between five and seven finger sticks and four shots each day. Those will continue for the rest of her life — or until a cure is found.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur had another idea about Herndon’s future. She called the 8 year old a natural leader and described Herndon’s visit as “Aotouch of grace in our office. It was a pleasure to meet such a vision of the future,” Kaptur said. “I hope she will continue to represent those who need a voice, perhaps one day even working within the walls of this Capital.”