Saturday, June 18, 2011

Red Team: “The Type 1 Club”

By: Alexandra Booth and Delaina McEwen, red team

Bryan Conrad, a 34-year-old orthopedic professor at the University of Florida, says when he sees someone with a blood glucose monitor like his own, he feels akin to them even if they are a complete stranger.

“It’s a club and you kind of connect with people,” he said.

In a community of people, they all deal with the same disease - type 1 diabetes - even though they lead different lives.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when a person’s immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin, a hormone produced by beta cells needed to move glucose to the blood cells. Because there is no cure, shots are given to replace patients’ lack of insulin.

Most cases are identified between the ages of one and four. However, in some cases, people develop the symptoms later in their adulthood.

Conrad was diagnosed with the disease three years ago. He became very thirsty, was losing a lot of weight, and made frequent trips to the bathroom. Conrad knew the symptoms of diabetes after his sister was diagnosed with it 15 years earlier.

His sister tested his blood sugar, which was off the charts.

For treatment, Conrad used to give himself insulin injections and tested his blood sugar whenever he ate. He currently uses an insulin pump that is attached to him which inserts an amount of insulin he needs depending on how many carbs he eats.

His family gives support throughout this journey. Since his mother is a nurse, she was able to learn more about the disease to first help his sister and now him. If he has a question, he can turn to his mother or sister for advice. To make things interesting, he and his sister compete to see who has the better glucose levels.

Similarly, Janey Adams, a 15-year-old high school student, was also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She spent two days in the hospital at UF, where her blood sugar was 400.

“From there, it changed everything,” she said.

Also, Adams would check her blood sugar and give herself insulin shots. Now, she uses an Omni pod, which attaches to her and through a wireless monitor, she inputs the amount of insulin she needs.

Adams and her family really didn’t know about diabetes, and it came as a big shock. Everyone helped out along the way and learned together.

Bobbi Johnson’s family had a long experience with diabetes. Johnson said many of her relatives suffer from the disease, including both of her grandparents.

Johnson said her mother, who was a nurse, learned as much about diabetes when Bobbi was diagnosed as a two-year-old. Johnson now is a 27-year-old lab researcher that studies epidemiology.

“This is the only life I’ve ever known,” she said.

Red Team:UF Diabetes Center strives for cure, not supportive therapy

By Adriana Miele

Jessica Finkel

“Lori is not different from a lot of you. She has a lot of things she likes to do that have nothing to do with diabetes. She likes holding giant babies and... buying silly drinks with little umbrellas in them,” said Dustin Blanton of Branford, Florida of his wife, Lori. Blanton was teaching biology at a local high school when his wife was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in November 2005 at the age of 19. From then on he decided to dedicate his life to finding a cure for his wife’s disease.

Though only 10 percent of the 16 million Americans with diabetes suffer from type 1, “it is a greater challenge for patients than type 2,” said Dr. Patrick Rowe, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Florida. While type 1 is a autoimmune disease determined by a genetic predisposition as well as a variety of external factors, such as diet, exercise and other lifestyle choices, type 2 diabetes is is a metabolic disorder and is far easier to control with certain lifestyle adjustments. Type 1 is a constant struggle, which Dr. Rowe deals with firsthand. From nausea, frequent bathroom usage and the constant monitoring of one’s sugar intakes, type 1 can wear down many sufferers. Graduate student Dustin Blanton said that he came home one afternoon to find his wife lying on the floor crying because she was so sick of always checking her blood pressure, which must be done at least four to six times daily.

Nonetheless, many of those suffering from type 1 have learned to cope and persevere, such as Bryan Conrad, a 34 year old father of two who says that he no longer views his diabetes as a bad thing. “I think that advocating for the cause is kind of neat. And now I feel like I’m part of this special club; I feel very connected to other patients.”

Because of the constant hassle faced by sufferers of type 1 diabetes, Dr. Brusko said the University of Florida’s Diabetes Center of Excellence is “looking for a cure and not supportive therapy.” And despite the many treatments and knowledge of diabetes, Dr. Todd Brusko of the Univeristy of Florida’s Diabetes Center of Excellence said, “If we know what causes diabetes, why can’t we simply find a cure?”

Unfortunately, he adds, the answer isn’t that simple. Conducting diabetes research, for type 1 in particular, is a difficult task. Dr. Rowe said, “It’s kind of like looking at a crime scene and trying to figure out what happened before and what happened later.”

Type 1 diabetes is essentially characterized by one’s own immune system attacking its own beta cells, which produce insulin. Insulin is produced in the pancreas to lower blood sugar levels, but those suffering from type 1 diabetes must inject insulin into their own bloodstreams depending on how much carbohydrates they eat or drink.

The greatest obstacle for pancreatic research is the obscured location of the pancreas, which Dr. Rowe explained is the reason most research must be conducted on pancreases from deceased organ donors. Donations are difficult to come across.

Despite these obstacles, Dustin Blanton insists that “the future looks bright.”

Red Team: Kids Find Nemo While Doctors Find Cure

By: Jordan Sanders & Audrey Zipperer

The huge tanks crowded with exotic fishes, the port-hole windows on every door, the specialized bathrooms for small children, and the large TV’s in every room. All of this is part of Shands new children emergency room, but where exactly did the funding come from for this luxurious project?

With $1,088,000 in donations, this new ER project was practically flung through a slingshot into its renovation. The biggest supporter of Shands Pediatric ER was the Sebastian Ferrero Foundation. Sebastian Ferrero was a three year old little boy who died at Shands Hospital in Gainesville as a result of medication overdose, followed by a series of preventable medical errors. In result, his parents founded the Sebastian Ferrero Foundation to raise awareness of how hospitals care for children. They donated $500,000.

Another large supporter was the Children’s Miracle Network. This is a non-profit organization that avidly raises money for children’s hospitals. They have raised over 4.3 billion dollars overall as of 2011.
These children are now going to benefit greatly from the renovations that are taking place. Even something as simple as a dolphin on a bedroom wall can make all the difference in a child’s outlook on their situation.

Red Team: Diabetes Patients Cope for Life

By Lauren Kandell, Stoneman Douglas High School

Cheyenne Hill, Braden River High School

Haley Gonzalez, Wharton High School

Kieran McGrail receives an error message after his glucose meter fails to read his blood sugar level. So the University of Florida Diabetes research lab manager pricks his finger again, and again. Though McGrail does not have Diabetes, this example shows the constant difficulties faced by diabetics from the day they are diagnosed, and for the rest of their lives.

One in 300 people develop Type 1 Diabetes, an autoimmune disease, before the age of 20, forcing them to develop coping methods for maintaining a steady insulin level in order to live the most average life possible with the disease.

“One time, I was eating lunch [at school] and I went to give myself a shot and one of the teachers that was in the lunchroom at the moment saw me and he walked over to see what I was doing,” 15-year-old Janey Adams said, who was diagnosed at age 14. “My friend [said], ‘oh, she has Diabetes, she can do that.’”

Adams informs all her teachers of her disease, who then allow her to check her levels and manage her insulin freely throughout the school day.

Diabetes patients must track the amounts of carbohydrates in everything they consume and insert the amount into their monitors, which then produce the amount of insulin necessary for keeping patients healthy.

If the disease is not properly maintained, patients can develop heart, kidney, eye, or nerve disease. Other complications such as hyperglycemia and strokes can also result from insufficient care, leading to amputations and possibly death.

University of Florida third year graduate student Dustin Blanton, works every day with his wife, Laurie, in order to make her life with Type 1 Diabetes as easy as possible. He reflects on the difficulties she faces, wanting to mindlessly eat without the stress of injecting herself with insulin.

“Diabetes never takes a break,” Blanton said. “The constant discipline needed to maintain this process wears a lot on a person psychologically.”

The recent invention of the OmniPod Pump provides a wireless alternative to manual insulin injections. Twenty-seven-year-old Bobbi Johnson, who was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age two, recently switched to the pump, and since then her life has changed drastically. She began giving herself insulin shots since the age of six, so the new mechanism provided great relief, though it still has to be managed multiple times per week.

Though insulin does not address the underlying causes of Diabetes, it does make the disease more manageable and lower chances of side effects and further complications later in life.

Raising awareness in people worldwide, as McGrail demonstrated with his finger prick, is seen as the most effective step toward discovering a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

Red Team: From Pricks to Pump

By Kaitlin Collison, Nilaja King, and Megg Rowjohn

After her daughter was tired and cranky and using the bathroom more than usual, Bobbi Johnson’s mother knew something was wrong with her baby.


“I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was two years old, and I’m 27 years old now, so I've had it for 25 years,” Johnson said as part of a panel on diabetes. “The doctor said I was a diabetic from the time I was born.”

Instead of a childhood filled with cakes and sweets, Johnson was surrounded by needle injections and carb counts.

Before insulin, diabetes was a death sentence. Evident since 1552 BC, diabetes treatment has developed continuously over centuries of research and hard work. Archaic treatments included overeating and other home remedies.

“It actually accelerated the disease because you have more sugar on board,” said Dr. Todd Brusko, assistant professor of pathology and diabetes researcher at the University of Florida.

Since then, research has proved that insulin is the best way to control the epidemic, although it is not a cure.

“Insulin and these monitoring devices will never be as good as a normally functioning pancreas, “ Dr. Brusko said.

Johnson administered her own insulin shots at six years old, a shocking but inspiring experience for her aunt who also has type 1 diabetes. As years progressed, the number of shots decreased gradually, from 10 to four a day.

Johnson now sports an automatic pump that distributes insulin when needed.

While still having to calculate carbs before every meal, the pump consumes less of Johnson’s time, allowing her to live a life free of needle injections. Compared to the complications of prodding needles and sore fingers, the Omnipod pump is wireless, waterproof and pain-free.

“Basically I just calculate the amount of carbs that I take for breakfast, lunch and dinner, even snack time, and program it into my device and my device will automatically let me know how much insulin I need to take,” she said

The University of Florida is the cutting edge of diabetes research, while the cure is not yet in sight, hope prevails. While a cure would be phenomenal for most, Johnson wouldn’t give up the disease.

“I’ve had it for twenty five years -- that's all I know,” she said. “If you were to take that away from me, I’d have nothing left.”

Red Team: New Facility, New Hope

By: Tiarra Gadsden, Cori Orcasitas, Leda Costa

Through the eyes of a child, a hospital can be a disinfected nightmare, but thanks to donations and other revenue sources, Shands at the University of Florida will soon be opening a new Pediatrics ER. The goal being to provide the best dedicated care, the new facility is designed specifically to deal with a child’s needs including the emotional toll of visiting a hospital and potentially being diagnosed.

With its calming nautical theme, colorful fish tanks, and high tech equipment, this new wing is a resourceful and child-friendly environment. Only under construction for a year, this under the sea renovation will have kids running in for shots.

Kim Faenza stated the nautical theme was chosen for its gender and age neutral calming effect, and also the fact that it can help distract kids from the reality that they are in a hospital. The patient rooms, as well as the medical rooms, are lined with bright, happy ocean-like colors and amiable sea creatures which help take away from the equipment children normally find uncomfortable or frightening.

With new and improved themed Pediatric ERs coming into trend, Shands is proud to open up a hospital wing where children can walk in with a smile on their face.

Shands Pediatric ER not only provides a cheerful atmosphere but also state of the art technology. This facility includes a state-of-the-art radiology suite with low dose radiology equipment designed specifically for young patients.

Private X-ray rooms, decontamination showers, and observation rooms with 24 hour supervision all house the ER’s advanced technology. The new, no-fear technological progressions are just what this propitious new facility needs.