8-Year-Old Speaks Out About Life With Type 1 Diabetes

On July 16, 2013, six-year-old Jack Wagener’s blood sugar level was high enough to put most children into a coma — one from which they may not wake up.

After months of displaying symptoms — “zoning out” after lunch, frequent thirst and urination — that doctors had blamed on stress, Jack’s mother, Jenn Wagener, reached her breaking point that day. While the Rossford family was eating at a downtown Toledo restaurant, Jack had went to the restroom three times before the meal was over. He had recently vomited, saying his stomach hurt.

“I knew something was bad,” said Jenn, who works in housekeeping at ProMedica St. Luke’s Hospital. “All the symptoms were there. He smelled sick. He looked sick.”

She and her fiancé decided to take Jack to ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital. After she arrived and told the triage nurse his symptoms, Jack was immediately admitted into the hospital. It would be his home for the next five days.

IMG_20130718_200010_390The initial blood glucose (sugar) reading simply read, “Over 500.” Normal levels are in the 70-140 mg/dl range, depending on when a person last ate. A random test above 200 suggests diabetes.

Upon further testing at a laboratory, it was discovered Jack’s blood sugar level was a staggering 1,025 mg/dl.

Jenn is still enthusiastically grateful for the care her son received that day.

“(His blood sugar level) was 10 times higher than a normal person’s blood sugar,” she said. “Most kids go into coma. Most kids don’t wake up. Most kids don’t go home. They saved my son’s life.”

Today, Jack is a precocious, well-spoken advocate for type 1 diabetes (T1D), for which there is no cure. In the past, the condition had often been referred to as “juvenile diabetes,” a term that is being phased out due to the fact it doesn’t end when the juvenile years do.

“It’s not like you grow up and it goes away,” Jack said. “I wish.”

The eight-year-old boy is a Northwest Ohio delegate for JDRF Children’s Congress. JDRF is the leading global organization which funds T1D research. He went to the nation’s capital to talk with legislators about living with diabetes and the importance of continued funding to find a cure for the disease.

The 8-year-old will be serving as a youth spokesperson Sept. 20 at the JDRF One Walk at Ottawa Park, 2205 Kenwood Blvd, Toledo. The local event, which features a one-mile or 5K distance, aims to raise nearly $200,000 for JDRF.

Upon finding out he had T1D, Jack asked Jenn what he could do.

“I asked my mom, ‘Is there anything I can do to make this go away?’” he explained. “She said, ‘We can support JDRF and we can walk.’ I didn’t want to just walk — I wanted to help raise money. So we made a walk team and started raising money. We’re over $3,000 already.”

Click here to visit the JDRF One Walk website to learn more or to make a donation to the cause. A ProMedica team is available for ProMedica employees, families and friends.