LAFAYETTE — Emily Toepfer gives herself a needle filled with insulin six times a day, but it doesn’t bother her.
“I get asked a lot if shots hurt, and personally, they don’t because I have had to do it for such a long time,” she said.
Emily, a seventh grader at Lafayette Township School, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, or T1D, as a fifth grader on Sept. 29, 2014.
Her blood sugar, or blood glucose, level had reached 734 mg — general medical guidelines are between 70 mg upon waking and less than 140 mg after eating — and she was rushed to the hospital.
“The doctors told me they couldn’t believe I was still alive,” Emily said.
About 1.25 million Americans are living with type 1 diabetes in which the pancreas fails to produce insulin, forcing patients to monitor their blood sugar levels and dose themselves with insulin as needed.
In type 2 diabetes, the most common form, the pancreas works, but the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or it resists it, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Standing in front of first through fifth graders at Lafayette Township School last Friday, Emily recalled those moments when she knew her life would never be the same again.
The American Diabetes Association marks the month of November as American Diabetes Awareness Month to bring attention to diabetes and the impact it has on million of Americans.
This year, the campaign invites those with diabetes, whether it be type 1, type 2 or gestational, which happens during pregnancy, to get on social media sites and #ThisIsDiabetes to share their personal stories and start a dialogue about what it means to live with the disease.
Emily, who said she believes managing diabetes is the “hardest thing” she has ever had to do, said her day usually consists of eight tests and six doses of insulin in her arm, leg or stomach.
“I always thought that God gave the toughest battles to the strongest warriors and I still believe because if I didn’t know how to take care of diabetes, I don’t think I could be handling it right now because of how hard it is,” Emily said.
Emily urged her teachers to not single out students with diabetes in class because “their faces will turn red like mine does.”
David Conklin, a seventh grader, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on Jan. 13, 2014 when he was in fourth grade, but instead of telling the audience he is “a diabetic,” he preferred to be called “a boy with diabetes.”
With his blood sugar reaching 475 mg on that day in 2014, he was rushed from his general physician’s office to the Goryeb Children’s Hospital at Morristown Medical Center.
“When you have type 1 diabetes, you realize you can go through anything because you have all the love and support you need,” David said.
David said that he hopes, just like Emily, that others make an effort to understand his life with diabetes.
“If I feel like you really care, I am more likely to do better in all the areas of life,” he said. “Love and support is crucial to good health and good learning.”
Following the presentations, a handful of seventh grade students — Toepfer, Conklin, Cailey Deming and Madison Lau — participated in a skit depicting the highs and lows of someone with diabetes and the entire school received T-shirts from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Emily Miller, development director for the New Jersey Metro and Rockland County Chapter of JDRF, said the foundation’s main goal is to make sure they end type 1 diabetes.
“We don’t want anyone else getting sick or going to the hospital or prick their finger, we want it completely gone,” Miller said.
Miller said that with funds raised over the years, just this past month, the Federal Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the artificial pancreas.
Although current type 1 diabetes systems use such devices as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors, software algorithms will now be able to decide how much insulin to deliver into the patient’s system.
“This is combining technology to make the life of people with type 1 diabetes a lot easier,” Miller said.
Lafayette School participated in JDRF’s Kids Walk, an educational, in-school fundraising campaign to educate students about diabetes and raised awareness by conducting a walk.
It was an ideal fall day — sunny but slightly crisp — as teachers, staff and students started at the front of the school and walked the approximate half-mile loop around the school.