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Young Patients Take Control With Winthrop's Pediatric Diabetes Program

"She's a kid first" is Carol Rosenking's mantra for her 13-year-old daughter, Taylor. A vibrant and active teenager, Taylor has asserted control over diabetes – an autoimmune disease that destroys the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin – with the help of Winthrop-University Hospital's Pediatric Diabetes Program.

Diabetes has become one of the most common and serious conditions in children, and it affects the entire family. At Winthrop, young people living with diabetes and their families have a specialized program to call their own. The Winthrop Pediatric Diabetes Program is an American Diabetes Association nationally recognized pediatric diabetes and endocrine care program. It serves over 1,000 children with diabetes throughout the tri-state area utilizing the caring and expertise of a team of specialists to help young patients achieve and maintain optimal blood glucose control and minimize or prevent complications.

Thirteen-year-old Taylor Rosenking is a patient at Winthrop's Pediatric Diabetes Program.
"The Pediatric Diabetes Program at Winthrop is committed to providing individualized quality and caring treatment to children, adolescents and young adults with diabetes. The clinical and educational staff address the needs not only of the patient, but of their family and the community," said Siham Accacha, MD, Chief of Winthrop's Pediatric Diabetes Program.

Children living with diabetes face many challenges. Every time they eat, they have to count carbs to manage their blood glucose levels, and they must continuously monitor their blood glucose levels and adjust their insulin therapy. As these patients grow older, they are also at increased risk for many serious health conditions including blindness, neuro - pathy, skin complications and infections, heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.

"Life isn't carefree for these children. The simplest things, like going on a field trip, aren't simple for children with diabetes. They have to make sure that they have all of their equipment with them, that they will be able to eat if they need to, and, if they eat, that they will be able to see nutrition information and count carbs," explained Jean Corrigan, RN, MA, Program Director of Winthrop's Pediatric Diabetes Program.

Care at Winthrop's Pediatric Diabetes Program is individualized to suit each child's or teen's lifestyle and to empower the individual and their family to participate fully and effectively in treatment and lifestyle decisions.

"Our program teaches children how to overcome the challenges they face on a daily basis and incorporate diabetes into their life. We follow our patients through each developmental stage in their life, providing education, individualized care and support to the entire family every step of the way," said Ms. Corrigan.

The Center provides comprehensive medical examinations of the child every two months – from a complete physical examination including vision assessments to diabetes education and individual counseling. The team consists of pediatric endocrinologists; certified diabetes educators who are all certified insulin pump trainers and specialized in treating diabetes in children, teens and young adults; registered nutritionists with specialized education and expertise in diabetes nutrition; a child life specialist, as well as an exercise physiologist and a social worker.

Taylor and her family are appreciative of the comprehensive care they have received from Winthrop's Pediatric Diabetes Program. When Taylor started showing early signs of diabetes at the age of four, her pediatrician immediately sent her to Winthrop's Emergency Department, where she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and admitted to the Hospital. While hospitalized, Taylor and her family met Ms. Corrigan, who gave them the skills and tools they needed to manage diabetes at home.

"Discovering that my daughter had diabetes was scary, but when I left the Hospital with Taylor, I wasn't scared anymore," Mrs. Rosenking recalled. "Jean was right by our side the entire time, and for the first few months after Taylor was discharged, we were in touch with her every day."

In spite of the challenges she faced, Taylor quickly learned how to integrate diabetes into her life. By the time she turned six, Taylor was able to recognize when her blood sugar was dropping, learned to read food labels, and was able to count carbs. When she was eight, Taylor began using an insulin pump – a small device that continuously delivers insulin to the body through a cannula (a small tube) placed under the skin. By eliminating insulin injections and giving Taylor greater flexibility with her meal plan, the pump allows Taylor to adjust her insulin therapy to her life – in other words, be a kid.

"Now I can sleep in on the weekends, because I don't have to eat on a set schedule!" she said.

Two years later, Taylor added continuous glucose monitoring, an adjunct therapy to the pump that records interstitial glucose levels 24 hours a day. This therapy enables Taylor to monitor trends in her blood sugar levels, giving her even more control over her diabetes.

Among the many valuable services available to patients and their families through Winthrop's Pediatric Diabetes Program are insulin pump training; education of siblings, relatives and caregivers so that they are prepared to care for the child with diabetes; 24-hour on-call assistance for support and information; and involvement in research protocols to promote the healthy lifestyle of people with diabetes. What's more, the Program runs various teen, child and toddler support groups, as well as support groups for parents and family members.

"Winthrop's support groups are an invaluable resource to all newly diagnosed patients. Parents can relate with other parents who live with the same challenges day in and out," said Mrs. Rosenking.

In addition, to help schools provide a safe environment for children with diabetes, the Program's certified diabetes educators visit their patients' schools, when needed, to provide diabetes education to teachers and staff members.

"The care is priceless," said Mrs. Rosenking, who credits Winthrop's program with ensuring that Taylor is "a kid first" and has all of the experiences and opportunities that a teenager should have. The family relishes the vacations they have taken together to places such as California and Hawaii – not an easy feat when managing diabetes. Taylor is also involved in numerous after-school activities including soccer, baseball, jazz and tap.

Taylor has raised over $25,000 to support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's mission of finding a cure for diabetes and its complications by rallying her family and friends to participate in the Foundation's annual walks. She also spends her summers at the Clara Barton Day Camp, an outdoor camp geared specifically toward insulin-dependent children. This summer, as a counselor-intraining, Taylor will serve as a role model for young children with diabetes.

"I remember how I felt when I first was diagnosed with diabetes and how many challenges I faced. I want to show kids that they are not alone, that they can't let diabetes stop them from anything," said Taylor.

For more information about Winthrop's Pediatric Diabetes Program, call 1-866-WINTHROP.
Vol. 21, No. 1
Winter/Spring 2011

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