Hayden Davis and Finn Schwartz have more in common than both being middle school students at St. Patrick School. The boys, who will be going into 7th and 8th grade respectively this year, have each been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Also known as juvenile diabetes, it’s a diagnosis that can cause confusion among adults and frustration for kids. While their classmates may eat treats brought in for birthdays and holidays without a second thought, students with type 1 diabetes need to be careful about what they consume. Failing to do so could cause dangerous fluctuations in their blood sugar levels and life-threatening complications.
Since both boys can relate to the anxiety caused by a type 1 diabetes diagnosis, they set out to do something to positive to help others going through a similar experience. With the help of their classmates, Hayden and Finn delivered 50 care bags to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital to be handed out to kids who have recently been diagnosed with the condition.
Confusion about Type 1 Diabetes
When asked about being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, 12-year old Hayden grimaces. There isn’t much positive to say about the experience. “Most of the time, [people] ask if you eat too much,” he says is a typical response when someone hears he is diabetic.
That may be because some people confuse type 1 diabetes with the more common type 2 diabetes. Both forms of diabetes result in the body’s inability to regulate sugar. If blood sugar is not controlled, complications can include cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage and vision problems such as cataracts and glaucoma. Both types of diabetes require patients to monitor their diet and medication, such as insulin shots, is used to manage blood sugar levels.
Although it can be diagnosed later in life, type 1 diabetes is often discovered between the ages of 4-7 or 10-14, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is unknown what causes type 1 diabetes, and there is no cure.
Type 2 diabetes is sometimes called adult-onset diabetes. It is linked to, among other things, excess weight and a sedentary lifestyle. Both are believed to lead to insulin resistance in the body. Insulin is what helps move sugar out of blood and into cells, and insulin resistant people can experience a dangerous build-up of blood sugar. There is no cure for type 2 diabetes, but people may be able to avoid the need for medication by losing weight, making dietary changes and becoming more active.
Providing Care Bags for the Newly Diagnosed
Hayden and Finn were both part of Student Leadership last year at St. Patrick School. “The constant need to monitor blood sugar, something most of us can take for granted, really affects [their] lifestyle,” says Nikki Kevic, the school’s 7th grade teacher and faculty advisor for the group.
The boys decided they wanted to lead a project that would have a positive impact on others faced with similar challenges. “The bag idea came about because we were looking for a way to help families rather than an organization,” Kevic remembers.
“When Finn and I went for our first meeting [after diagnosis], they gave us a bag full of stuff,” Hayden explains. That bag included snacks and other items that softened what was an otherwise difficult experience. They decided to create their own care bags that could be handed out at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
After brainstorming a list of appropriate items, an appeal was sent out to the entire school to donate the necessary items, and the response was tremendous. Student Leadership used some of its funds to buy 50 cinch sack bags which were filled with about a dozen items including a stuffed animal or deck of cards, glucose tabs and diabetic-friendly snacks.
“They inspired me with their interest, their willingness to share and their response of gratitude when they saw the project come together,” Kevic says. “I am also very proud of the seventh-grade class, who willingly – and seriously – sorted the donated items and filled the bags so that they would all be equal.”
With the bags filled, Hayden, Finn and their moms headed to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital to deliver them. “I worked with both Hayden’s diabetes educator and doctor at the clinic, and they said they would be happy to distribute the bags to all patients,” says Misty Davis, Hayden’s mom.
Davis has nothing but high praise for the staff she and her son have encountered while navigating the world of type 1 diabetes. “They are kind and giving of their time and knowledge and to see the boys give something to them was just priceless,” she says.
As for Hayden, he shrugs and smiles in response to praise about the project. “I just wanted to do something for diabetics,” he says. And he and Finn can take pride in knowing they have done just that.