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 Article of Interest - Diabetes

Promise of a cure for diabetes: Mom makes deal with teen daughter
by Cassandra Spratling, Detroit Free Press, September 13, 2002
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To be just like other kids.

That's what Rachel Dudley wanted to be at age 13.

She wanted to eat what she wanted, where she wanted, when she wanted, just like her friends.

She was tired of the rigid regimen required for children like her who have juvenile diabetes: specific meals at specific times in specific amounts.

And she didn't want to take the insulin shots that controlled her blood sugar levels and kept her healthy.

So she stopped.

When she was supposed to be in the bathroom injecting insulin into her body, she was ejecting the medicine into the toilet.

"It's simply easier not to do what you're supposed to do," Rachel says.

Her body revolted. She ended up in the intensive care unit of Children's Hospital of Michigan with ketoacidosis, severely out-of-control diabetes that, if not treated promptly, could have killed her or left her in a coma.

Rachel's mom, Grenae Dudley, pleaded with her daughter to do better. At Rachel's hospital bedside, they made a pact.

Her mom said, "I will do everything in my power to find a cure if you will do everything in your power to stay healthy."


Within a month after that incident in 1998, Grenae Dudley had formed a team of friends and family members to participate in the annual Walk to Cure Diabetes, sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The family's goal: to raise a dollar for every insulin shot Rachel has taken.

Every year since that 1998 pledge, family members have done that or more.

Their goal this year: $13,395.

On Sunday, they'll join thousands of other walkers at sites in Warren and Ann Arbor who are walking to raise money for a cure for juvenile diabetes.

The walks are among several fund-raisers being held around the country, including three others in Michigan. There will be walks on Saturday in Grand Rapids and Jackson and on Sept. 28 at the Holland State Park. (Go to for details).

What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and limb amputations. An estimated 17 million Americans have diabetes.

There are two types.

Type I results when, for reasons not known, the body produces little or no insulin. It's also called juvenile diabetes because it usually begins in childhood, although adults can get it. The foundation estimates that a million Americans have Type I diabetes.

Type II used to be called adult-onset diabetes, but an increasing number of children are getting it because of rising obesity rates and inactive lifestyles among children.

It comes from the body's inability to effectively use insulin.

Insulin, a hormone, is needed for the body to function properly -- particularly to turn glucose, a sugar, into energy.

Type II diabetes can usually be controlled with diet and exercise, as well as other medications.

Type I diabetes, which is what Rachel has, can't be prevented or cured.

People who have Type I diabetes, which is not triggered by weight or lifestyle, must learn to live with it. And living well requires daily insulin shots, a healthful diet -- particularly one low in sugar -- regular exercise and daily finger pricks to test the sugar level in the blood.

For Rachel and many others, it also requires regular visits to the hospital.

Rachel takes insulin shots three times a day and goes to the hospital every three months for physical checkups to be sure everything is going well.

Rachel, who'll be 17 on Sept. 30, was 4 when she was diagnosed.

'Am I going to die?'
Her mom will never forget that day.

She came home from a business trip and noticed that her baby girl looked as if she'd lost weight. Her eyes appeared to be sunken in and she had an unquenchable thirst. Sudden weight loss, unusual thirst, blurred vision, frequent urination and weakness or fatigue are warning signs of diabetes.

Grenae Dudley took Rachel to her pediatrician, who checked her blood sugar level.

The doctor told Grenae Dudley to take her child to Children's Hospital right away.

On the way, 4-year-old Rachel asked her mother, "Am I going to die?"

"Not if I can help it," her mother replied.

Medical personnel were waiting when Rachel and her mom arrived and immediately hooked her up to "all kinds of tubes and syringes," recalls Grenae Dudley, executive director of the Youth Connection and directorof Mayor's Time, created by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Both programs aim to develop after-school activities for children.

While Rachel recovered physically, her mother recovered emotionally from the news that her precious baby girl was diabetic.

"I knew what diabetes was, but it never occurred to me that my child could have it. No one in my family or my ex-husband's family had it. My child is insulin-dependent for life until a cure is found."

Before Rachel could leave the hospital, all of her primary caregivershad to learn how to care for her and how to give her insulin shots.

At first, they practiced on oranges. Initially, the idea of injecting Rachel was frightening.

"My mother said, 'I can't give my baby shots,' " Grenae Dudley recalls her mother saying. "It hit me that if we don't, she will die."

At about 11, Rachel asked if she could begin giving her own shots: a quest for independence common among preteens. And, in fact, medical authorities recommend self-care for children who are able.

"I remember being eager to do it myself because I wanted to be out of my mom's hair," says Rachel, a senior at Southfield-Lathrup High. "It was a step toward independence and a little more freedom."

Then the teen years hit and Rachel longed to be normal.

"It was time-consuming," she says, citing her diet as an example. She has to have a certain amount of carbohydrates, fats and proteins and had to learn which foods could be exchanged for others to satisfy the requirements.

"I'd be in the school cafeteria figuring exchanges and my friends would have eaten and were already on the playground," Rachel recalls.

That's when she decided to cure herself by pretending she was OK, dumping her shots and neglecting her diet.

The severe, life-threatening reaction served as a reality check. Her kidneys almost shut down. She could have died. She realized she could live with the diet and the insulin shots.

That's when she and her mom made their pact.

Living up to her side of the agreement requires a little extra advance planning, but otherwise she's like a normal teenager. If she's going to be out, she either packs her food or plans ahead what she'll eat and when. "With careful planning, there's really not much I can't eat," she says. "But I have to stay away from sweets --cookies, cakes, and candy -- because it drives my blood sugar crazy."

Like her mother, who is an advocate for the well-being of children, Rachel has become a junior champion in the search for a cure for diabetes.

In May, she was honored for her efforts by the Metro Detroit and Southeast Michigan Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It was the first time a child received the Jane Cobb Promise Award for Community Activism, given annually at its charity ball, says Karen Breen, executive director of the foundation's local chapter.

In the summer of 2001, Rachel was one of 200 children from across the nation who went to Washington, D.C., to plead for federal dollars for researching a cure.

Only five of the 200 children addressed Congress. She was one of them.

And she has joined her mother -- a board member of the foundation -- in helping to raise money for a cure.

For the past several days, she's been going around Southfield-Lathrup High School with an empty Quaker Oats box requesting donations.

"The students have been very generous," she says. "It seems they all know somebody with diabetes."

For the past several years, the Dudley family has been one of the top five fund-raising teams participating in metro Detroit's Walk to Cure Diabetes, Breen says.

Grenae Dudley shares her strategy: It starts with a heavy letter-writing campaign to friends and family members. She talks it up wherever she goes. Among her generous contributors are members of her church, Hope United Methodist in Southfield, and her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. Every year, the Dudley family, which includes a 19-year-old sonBrandon, comes up with something unique. This year, Grenae Dudley's manicurist, Andrea Joi Wilkins, suggested a cookbook.

The result: a 23-page cookbook called "Cooking with Joi for Rachel." Though most recipes came from Wilkins, some came from others, including an Eggplant Parmesan recipe from Rachel.

All money from the sale of the $10 books goes to fund-raising efforts. It's sold at the hair salon where Wilkins' works, Coiffeurs By Charles, 13823 W. Eight Mile, Detroit.

"There's a flip side to being diabetic," says Rachel, who writes poetry and hopes to someday own a publishing company. "It forces you be more organized; it teaches you time management. If you stick to the diet and the insulin, you'll be just as healthy as the next person."


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