Rajoielle “Raj” Register, of Grosse Pointe Shores, and her family overcame challenges after their daughter, Blake, was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes in 2019.
About 1.6 million Americans are living with Type One Diabetes (T1D), including about 200,000 youth and 1.4 million adults. Sixty-four thousand people are diagnosed each year in the U.S., according to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation statistics.
In Type One Diabetes (or juvenile diabetes), the body is not producing insulin. The body breaks down the carbohydrates a person eats into blood sugar (blood glucose) that is then used for energy—insulin is a hormone that the body needs to carry glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. With the assistance of insulin therapy and other treatments, people can learn to manage their condition and live healthy lives.
Although it is easy to make the diagnosis of diabetes in a child by checking blood sugar at the doctor’s office or emergency room, the tricky part can be to recognize the symptoms at the onset and know when to take a child to get checked. Raising the awareness that young children, including infants, can get Type One Diabetes can help parents see the signs early.
However, the best preparation and planning for this takes a backseat to unsettling statistics revealing that Black people are more likely to develop diabetes than White people, according to Medical News Today. This may be because this disenfranchised population typically faces more barriers than opportunities with lowering their chance of developing the blood glucose disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 10.5% of the population of the United States had diabetes in 2018. In the report, diagnosed diabetes was at 11.7% among non-Hispanic Black people in the U.S. and 7.5% among non-Hispanic white people in the U.S., per the report. In 2018, non-Hispanic Black people were also twice as likely as non-Hispanic white people to die from diabetes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Racial disparities revolving around diabetes linked to environmental, socioeconomic, physiological, and genetic factors, according to nationwide statistics.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) is hosting THE 2022 “What If” Detroit Promise Ball at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 6, presented by Ford, to address some of these stigmas around Type One Diabetes, especially in Black children.
Hosted by JDRF’s Michigan & Northern Ohio Chapter, the 37th annual Promise Ball event will feature a cocktail hour, seated dinner, live and silent auctions, a special Fund A Cure segment, and entertainment. Proceeds from the 2022 Promise Ball will support the next milestone in diabetes research, especially as JDRF is looking to help find a cure for Type One Diabetes and its complications.
Krystal Dunlap, development director with JDRF International, told the Michigan Chronicle that the organization is focused on fundraising to fund researchers who apply for grants from JDRF, she said adding that a top priority is looking more into artificial pancreases, which are on the market.
Dunlap said that she has noticed, especially since the pandemic that more African American children have been diagnosed with Type One Diabetes.
“(We’re) not quite sure why,” Dunlap said, adding that a lot of times the diagnosis stems from some other type of virus with strep throat or now COVID-19. “Type One has skyrocketed – not sure if it’s environmental or genetic factors, it could have been lying dormant.”
Rajoielle “Raj” Register, of Grosse Pointe Shores, told the Michigan Chronicle that her daughter, Blake, 14, was diagnosed in 2019 with Type One Diabetes and their family of four (along with her husband and son) were impacted in a major way.
“One of the things we felt was important as a family was to really figure out what we could do to help the community and be supportive and not just receive help.”
Register said that Blake was quickly placed on a continuous glucose monitor, which tracks her glucose numbers, and replaces the finger prick.
Blake, who is also a JDRF youth ambassador, has been a major influence in the local community through volunteerism and being a face of the disease.
“I’m just super proud,” Register said. “And so with all the work that we had been doing and … trying to … be supportive in the community, they asked us to chair the gala this year. It’s a lot that’s happened in my two years.”
Register added that despite the pretty positive uphill battle in facing Type One Diabetes, she and her family couldn’t help but recognize the disparities Black children face with the disease in comparison to other ethnic groups.
“It doesn’t seem like there’s much awareness in the African American community on Type One Diabetes,” she said. “In many cases, we have many African American children that are sick and T1D is not considered as a potential diagnosis we don’t know why.”
She also said that the scary part of the disease is that it could lead to death from someone slipping into a diabetic coma and not waking up.
“That’s very dangerous where if your blood glucose numbers are super high, you have to go to the hospital (because of diabetic ketoacidosis) to get an IV to help,” she said, adding that if numbers are low that is when individuals can slip into a diabetic coma, which could lead to death.
Other side effects of untreated type 1 diabetes lead to blindness and more.
Register’s daughter, Blake, told the Michigan Chronicle that when she was first diagnosed it honestly didn’t hit her until she was released from the hospital.
“I was scared due to the lack of insight and control over my body. But, now … I have the resources to ensure my safety at all times, so why be scared if you have the solution(s) to your problem? This is my new normal,” Blake said, adding that people recently diagnosed with Type One Diabetes don’t have to a “ruled by fear.”
“In other words don’t let it control your life. It’s also important to be prepared. Whether it’s bearing a diabetes bag consisting of needles, insulin, and snacks or wearing a medical bracelet or necklace. Don’t be ashamed,” she said adding that she sees a bright future for herself beyond the diagnosis.
“In the future, I see myself mass-producing illustrations inspired by diabetes,” she said. “I also see myself telling my raw story on national television and making apps to teach adolescents recently diagnosed. Nothing is possible until you try the impossible. This isn’t your fault, these are just cards that you were meant to play. God wouldn’t permit something you can’t handle.”
For more information visit jdrf.org and search “What If Detroit Promise Ball” or click here.