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Catholic mother testifies before Congress about life with diabetes
Theresa Laurence
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Monday, June 29, 2009
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS)—After musician Nick Jonas, actress Mary Tyler Moore and boxer Sugar Ray Leonard testified before a Senate committee June 24, several lesser-known people from around the country also took to the stand to support increased federal funding for diabetes research.
One of them was Ellen Gould, a Catholic mother of eight and a member of the St. Henry Parish in Nashville.
"I'm speaking on behalf of my four children and about the human side of dealing with diabetes every day," she told the Tennessee Register, Nashville's diocesan newspaper, in a telephone interview from Washington the day before the hearing.
Four of Gould's children—Oliver, 5, Sam, 12, Sarah, 10, and Patrick, 17—all live with type 1 diabetes.
Patrick Gould, a senior at Father Ryan High School in Nashville, applied and was chosen to be a delegate as part of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Children's Congress 2009.
Several delegates were chosen to testify before the Senate committee, and it was then determined Ellen would speak on behalf of all her children with diabetes. The children had a chance to answer questions from the Senate committee members after the testimony, she said.
With type 1 diabetes, the most serious and complicated form of the disease, a person's pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that enables people to get energy from food. This strain of diabetes is not caused by obesity or excessive sugar intake, according to the research foundation, which is studying both genetics and environmental triggers as potential causes of the disease.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is the world's leading nonprofit, nongovernmental funder of type 1 diabetes research, but the organization also advocates for federal support of type 1 diabetes research to ensure that sufficient funds will be available to support human clinical trials.
The Goulds have participated in several such research studies at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where they receive treatment. That's how Oliver found out he had the disease.
"Without government funding, all this research won't continue at this rate," Ellen Gould said.
She hoped her testimony in front of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs would help increase funding for diabetes research so a cure can be found in her children's lifetime. "Insulin therapy is not a cure," she said.
People with type 1 diabetes must test their blood sugar multiple times a day by pricking their fingers to draw blood, and then inject insulin or use a continuous infusion insulin pump.
The four Gould children with diabetes typically test their blood sugar level six times a day, before meals, bedtime and prolonged activity. Except for the youngest, "they're pretty independent with the testing and injections," Gould said.
But eating right, monitoring blood sugar levels and injecting the right amount of insulin to keep their bodies in balance is still difficult.
"You can do everything right and the blood sugar can still be too high," she said.
According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, since the balance depends on a number of factors including stress and exercise, there is no way to know how much insulin to inject with 100 percent accuracy.
While careful monitoring and control of blood sugar levels can greatly reduce the risks of diabetes complications, Gould is still concerned about how her children's health might be affected decades down the road.
High blood sugar levels over a number of years can cause serious damage to the body's organ systems, which may cause complications affecting the heart, nerves, kidneys, eyes, and other parts of the body.
The Goulds still do not know why four of their children have diabetes and four do not, but the four who do not—the youngest of whom is 2—continue to be tested every year for signs of the disease.
Ellen Gould only had five minutes to speak before the Senate committee, but said she hoped that with her children gathered around her, it made for a powerful testimony in the fight against diabetes.

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