With nearly 24 million people in the United States living with diabetes and more than 186,000 of them younger than 20 years old, a group of Redmond teens are working to spread awareness about the disease.
Fourteen-year-olds Julie Tramp, Andrew Sundene, Christoph Myer and Emma Calvert and 16-year-olds Jessica Tramp and Erin Saunderson have known each other since they attended Ben Rush Elementary School together. But more importantly, they are all diabetic — most since before they turned 7.
This commonality among them prompted the teens to approach Redmond Mayor John Marchione with a request to proclaim November National Diabetes Month in Redmond.
Marchione, 45, who was diagnosed with diabetes at 38, readily agreed. On Tuesday, the mayor met with the six teens to sign a proclamation declaring next month National Diabetes Month. In addition to being diabetic, Marchione had one more thing in common with the youths. He is a Ben Rush alum as well.
“I was in the first kindergarten class when the school opened,” he told the teens during the proclamation signing. “So getting an e-mail from some Ben Rush kids was cool.”
Julie, now a ninth-grader at Rose Hill Junior High, said finding they had so much in common with Marchione was ironic. She was one of the first in the group to be diagnosed and has been spearheading their efforts to spread the word. Julie, Andrew and Christoph are part of the Washington State Teen Leadership Council, which is campaigning to have as many cities in the state as possible declare November National Diabetes Month. Council members also hope to work local and state lawmakers to advocate for diabetes research, legislation and relevant social issues.
“There are 24 million people in our country alone that have diabetes,” Julie said. “I think it’s really important people know it can be serious.”
The seriousness of the disease comes from complications such as blindness, numbness of extremities and even death.”
Julie was 5 when she was diagnosed and said having friends who were also dealing with diabetes made things much easier. Going through school, Julie was often in the same class as one of the other three who are in her grade and because of that, they would often look out for each other — making sure they were checking their insulin levels and recognizing signs if those levels were too high or too low. She said they would also share insulin if someone ran out and couldn’t get any at the time. Because everyone was looking out for everyone else, Julie said their health is probably relatively better than their peers who are dealing with diabetes on their own.
“It was really helpful,” she said. “I’m sure our health is a lot better.”
Erin was diagnosed the same day as Julie and agrees having the large support group has been very beneficial. Erin, a junior from Lake Washington High School, was six when she was diagnosed and already friends with Jessica, Julie’s older sister who was diagnosed four months later. Erin said learning about and dealing with diabetes with the Tramps made things much easier for her and her family. It was also nice having more people who understood what she was going through.
This is one of the reason she is excited about promoting diabetes awareness next month. It will get the facts about the disease out to the public.
“To get noticed was just really awesome,” Erin said. “I think its time people understood what diabetes really is instead of making assumptions.”
One person who also made things much easier for the teens and their families is Ben Rush secretary Nancy Dunlap, who would help with testing blood as well as making sure the kids didn’t feel different from their peers.
“We tried to make it fun for them,” she said.
During her time at the school, Dunlap had never had any students with the disease. So when this group were in attendance, she received a crash course in diabetes. Dunlap communicated heavily with teachers and parents to make sure everyone was on the same page.
“Everyone was aware (of what was going on),” she said. “Communication was really big.”
Dunlap said she misses the teens and jokes that the school’s office is a lot quieter now. Dunlap also attended the proclamation signing. She said she is very excited about it and hopes they receive a lot of support.
Julie is also excited.
“I just hope we get a lot of awareness and find a cure,” Julie said. “Our main goal is to find a cure for diabetes.”