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B'ville: Fighting Juvenile Diabetes

Joel Hargrave knows how to roll with the punches.

In 2003, the Baldwinsville boy was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, also known at Type 1 diabetes. At the time, Joel had been suffering from recurring headaches. One day, he said he had a really bad one, so his mother, Karen, took him to the doctor where he was diagnosed.

"My mom said I wasn't upset or worried about it when I found out," Joel said.

"As much as a 7-year-old can understand, he really didn't let it bother him," Karen confirmed. "He integrated it into his routine really quickly."

What is juvenile diabetes?

According to the web site for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's (jdrf.org), juvenile diabetes, occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys beta cells, which normally produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body move glucose contained in food into cells throughout the body, which is used for energy. When beta cells are destroyed, no insulin can be produced and the glucose stays in the blood where it can cause serious damage to all the organ systems of the body.

For this reason, people with juvenile diabetes must take insulin in order to stay alive. This means undergoing multiple injections daily or having insulin delivered through an insulin pump, and testing their blood sugar by pricking their fingers for blood six or more times a day.

Joel chose to wear the pump to receive his insulin and must change his pump site every three days.

"It's annoying at times," he said about the pump. But, with a positive attitude, Joel notes the upside of his condition, namely his midnight snacks of M&Ms and being able to miss boring classes to go to the nurse to have his insulin checked.

"He's fortunate because he doesn't have a lot of lows during the night," Karen said. "Some have seizures and can go into a coma."

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