A diagnosis of diabetes can be overwhelming, especially for a child. And a Kentucky program is working to provide emotional support for kids with Type 1 diabetes and their families.
The "Family Link" program is a collaboration of the American Diabetes Association in Kentucky and the UK HealthCare's Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center. Dr. Laura Hieronymous, associate director of education and quality services at the center, said patients have a lot to figure out when they're first diagnosed, including how to use insulin and properly monitor blood-glucose levels.
And as its name implies, Family Link connects families who are on the same journey.
"It's very much a support system,” Hieronymous said. “If they meet other children and adolescents who have diabetes, they see that there are other people with the disease, and that they can live healthy with it."
More than 3,000 Kentucky kids are estimated to be living with diabetes.
Paula Gearheart of Richmond said she was a bit frightened when her son was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, but some of that fear dissipated after meeting with other families in the program. Her son has even become a Family Link youth ambassador.
"My son doesn't like other kids to know at school that he's got 'Type 1,' so the majority of them have no idea. But he enjoys our outings and things, because he's just like everyone else, not different at all,” Gearheart said. “And being a youth ambassador has really boosted his self-esteem and his self-confidence."
Heironymous said the most important thing for people with diabetes is to stay informed, and Family Link offers educational programming and service referrals for pediatric patients.
"Things change on a regular basis - new technology comes out, new medications come out, new guidelines,” Heironymous said. “And you really want to stay abreast of all that new information and the things that can potentially make life with diabetes more manageable."
Family Link members also attend special outings during the year, including baseball games, fairs and picnics. She added they're working to spread the word across the state so more families can get involved.
More information on Family Link is available at http://diabetes.org