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September 26, 2012

Childhood diabetes diagnosis sparks man’s advocacy

Walk to Cure Diabetes looks to raise funds for cure

By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Royal Oak resident Ryan Dinkgrave shows off a flyer for the Sept. 23 JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes and his insulin pump last week. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10, Dinkgrave is now 29 and getting through life just fine while advocating awareness and research for a cure.

Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10 didn’t do Ryan Dinkgrave any favors while he was growing up in Livonia. Now, at age 29, the Royal Oak resident looks back at the news that helped him grow up fast.

“It changes just about everything. You get used to doing it,” Dinkgrave said of the insulin injections he began taking 19 years ago. “I was 10 years old in the fifth-grade in Livonia at the time. I was thirsty and lethargic.”

According to the American Diabetes Association, the bodies of people with type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin, which “is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life.” Only 5 percent of diabetics have type 1, but 25.8 million people in the U.S., or 8.3 percent of the total population, have some form of diabetes.

Upon Dinkgrave’s diagnosis at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn in 1993, dealing with the insulin deficiency became an ever-increasing part of his life. At age 16, he was just the fifth child ever to begin using an insulin pump through the University of Michigan’s Pediatric Endocrinology Department.

“I was taking two injections per day when I was first diagnosed,” Dinkgrave said. “Then I was on three, four, five (injections) and figured I was poking myself all day anyway. Pumps had become increasingly popular. They had been around 10-15 years before that. It’s still a treatment where you have to stay on top of it.”

Insulin pumps provide a slow injection of insulin throughout the day, along with a manual burst that is most often used while eating or before removing the pump during exercise.

“I take my pump out most of the time when I exercise,” Dinkgrave said. “Once you get accustomed to something being attached to you, it becomes an extension of you. The biggest hurdle when I was younger, and to this day, was just diligence and sticking with it constantly.”

Dinkgrave has gotten involved with diabetes awareness and advocacy in his adult life as a board member of JDRF’s Metro Detroit Chapter, largely due to work he did as a middle school student.

“I started a website on Geocities when I was in middle school,” Dinkgrave said, noting the blog gained him media attention back then. “I bought one of those ‘HTML for Dummies’ books and started making myself a page. That’s what led me into advocacy.”

Now as a JDRF leader, the foundation’s Sept. 23 Walk to Cure Diabetes was expected to bring 7,500 people to the General Motors Technical Center in Warren to raise funds to support research for a cure.

“Each day, people with type 1 diabetes must overcome the constant challenges of the disease, monitoring blood sugar levels and taking the proper dosages of insulin,” said Kate Durak, executive director for the JDRF Metro Detroit, Southeast Michigan and Northwest Ohio Chapter, in a release. “Just as they must be committed to their health, we are devoted to funding the research that could offer them better treatments or develop a cure. The Walk to Cure Diabetes is an important way we support one another emotionally and financially.”

Dinkgrave is optimistic that a cure for diabetes is on the way. Developments with creating artificial pancreases are expected within a few years, he said.

“When I meet kids that are type 1 diabetic, I like to tell them that I think in my lifetime we’ll see a cure,” Dinkgrave said.

For more information on diabetes or how to donate to research, visit www.diabetes.org or www.jdrf.org.
 

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Chris Jackett at cjackett@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1110.