HANNAFORD, N.D. — For a person with diabetes, to keep their blood sugar at a safe level can be a scary and complicated task, but Jarin Monson is up to it because he’s had a lot of practice.
At 16, Jarin has been dealing with Type 1 or juvenile diabetes since he was 2 years old.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition where the pancreas makes little or no insulin — a hormone the body uses to allow glucose to enter cells to produce energy.
Jarin’s mother, Amber Stockeland, said it’s a real challenge, but her 16-year-old is living a mostly normal life, playing sports and doing other activities with small modifications.
“Jarin has diabetes, but diabetes will never have Jarin. That’s kind of how we’ve moved forward,” she said.
Now, the high school junior from Hannaford has been named the 2022 Teen Ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) One Walk in North Dakota.
The walk, which also includes food and inflatable games for kids, will take place Saturday, Nov. 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. inside Scheels Arena at 5225 31st Ave. S., in Fargo.
Coincidentally, it’s the same date as Jarin’s diagnosis 14 years ago.
Funds raised will benefit the foundation, whose aim is to accelerate breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat Type 1 diabetes (T1D) and its complications.
As teen ambassador for the walk, Jarin’s role is to connect with and inspire other teens who have Type 1 diabetes. This will be his family’s eighth year taking part.
In 2008, when Amber noticed her firstborn was crabby, drinking a lot of water and regressing in potty training, she chalked it up to schedule changes.
Then, a woman at daycare mentioned her son had Type 1 diabetes, and thought Jarin was showing similar symptoms.
Amber checked to see if her son’s breath had a fruity odor, a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis, and when it seemed normal, thought he couldn’t have diabetes.
But he continued to seem unwell so she called Jarin’s doctor, who advised her to get a blood glucose monitor to put her mind at ease.
The monitor showed “high,” so she brought her child to a health care facility in nearby Cooperstown and while waiting to see the doctor, noticed his skin was almost gray in color.
A check of his weight showed the toddler had lost 7 pounds since his last visit.
The biggest shock was still to come.
After not eating anything all day, Jarin’s blood sugar measured more than 870 milligrams per deciliter, Amber said.
Anything over 600 mg/dL can lead to life-threatening dehydration and a diabetic coma.
A fasting blood sugar level of 99 mg/dL or lower is normal, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
“Very scary… We didn’t have any clue what we were getting into,” Amber said.
Jarin got his first dose of insulin there and was rushed to Sanford in Fargo, where he was hospitalized and stabilized.
His physician, Dr. Brenda Thurlow, assured the family that anything Jarin could do pre-diabetes, he was going to be able to do after.
Jarin’s only real memory of that time, he said, was eating Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes in his hospital bed.
“It didn’t take him long to pop right back and be the two-year-old he was prior to diagnosis,” Amber said.
Initially, his blood sugar needed to be checked six to 12 times a day.
“I can’t even count how many sticks and pokes he had to go through,” Amber said.
She’d check it every morning at 2:30 a.m., a regimen her son would eventually sleep right through.
Jarin got his first insulin pump at age 4 and when he turned 12, got a new pump and his first continuous glucose monitor (CGM).
A CGM works through a tiny sensor inserted under the skin, testing glucose every few minutes and relaying the information to a monitor.
In addition to Jarin getting the notifications, the information is also sent to Amber’s cell phone.
When Jarin plays football, he doesn’t wear his insulin pump but gives it to one of his coaches, and as long as he’s in proximity, can still get blood glucose readings.
If his numbers are off, he can make the needed corrections.
“It just made it 20 times easier,” he said.
Danelle Johnson, who’s organizing the JDRF One Walk, and daughter Danika, who was diagnosed with T1D at age 13, have mailed event invitations to every North Dakota legislator and to the state’s congressional delegation.
Johnson was part of efforts in two previous legislative sessions to address high insulin prices.
The most recent bill, in 2021, was defeated after lawmakers decided that what insurance companies would need to pay to make insulin more affordable outweighed the benefits.
“I wish beyond anything I wasn’t having to do it,” Johnson said, about the advocacy work. “I wish I didn’t see what was happening to so many families around us.”
Amber and Jarin said they hope people come out to the walk to learn more about Type 1 diabetes and donate to the cause.
“You don’t have to know anybody with diabetes to come and show your support… the more people that are there, the better,” he said.
A previous version of this story gave an incorrect last name for Jarin Monson.