Tahoe-Truckee area diabetes foundation formed
The day Incline resident Pamela Ball found out she had type 1 diabetes is a day she’ll never forget.
“I was diagnosed on Jan. 9, 1998,” Ball said. “It took me by surprise. There is no family history of diabetes at all.”
Diabetes impairs the body’s ability to make or use insulin. There are two major types of diabetes. Type 1 is juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes and Type 2 is adult-onset or non-insulin-dependent.
Type 1 can occur at any age but it usually develops before the age of 30. Type 1 is the most difficult to control. Currently there is no cure for diabetes.
Ball said generally people are diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at a young age, usually by 15 or 16.
When she was diagnosed Ball was 24. She said she felt fortunate to have had 24 years of good health.
She said the popular theory is she got diabetes from a virus, similiar to the flu virus. She explained that in the process of her body attacking the virus, for some inexplicable reason, it started attacking her pancreas.
Before she was diagnosed, Ball was constantly tired and had been rapidly losing weight. She is 5 feet 8 inches tall and when she went to her doctor for her annual check up she weighed only 99 pounds.
Her doctor sent her to have blood tests done but as she was walking to her car, her doctor ran after her.
“She said she’d just done a urine test and then she said, ‘You have diabetes.’ I went straight to the Truckee hospital,” Ball said.
When she got her blood tests results, her blood sugar was 410. It should be between 60 and 120, Ball said.
“I looked at the doctor and asked, ‘What happens now? What must I do?’,” Ball said.
She had a fear of needles but three hours after arriving at the hospital she had learned how to give herself an injection.
And this, she believes, is one of the popular misconceptions about diabetes.
She said most people think that a diabetic merely has to take a shot of insulin and that is all there is to it.
“The shot just lets me stay alive,” Ball said. “I look at the day I could possibly face kidney failure, blindness, amputation, nerve damage and heart disease.”
Ball said she has to watch what she eats and exercise at least three times a week. Her life is better today because she is taking care of herself.
“After I went on insulin, I felt like a million bucks,” Ball said. “And the neat thing is I’m on an insulin pump now. I used to take about six shots a day before I got the pump.”
Ball is delighted with her new aid although she had to go through two days of education to learn how to operate the pump.
She inserts it in to her body and it regulates the flow of insulin automatically. Ball said the needle is pretty intimidating at first, “some one described it as the harpoon, you pinch some fat and bang it in.”
“It becomes a part of your body, I call it my external pancreas,” Ball said. “You learn to sleep with it.”
Ball is now actively involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International and is working towards establishing a Lake Tahoe branch of the Nevada chapter.
The JDF is an international nonprofit, nongovernmental organization with a mission to fund research for a diabetes cure.
It was founded in 1970 by parents of children with diabetes and since its inception has provided more than $326 million to research worldwide.
Ball’s involvement started when a friend, Kristi Fisher of Premier Properties, called to introduce her to Josh Bardin, a Californian vascular surgeon.
Ball said Bardin’s son has diabetes and he was interested in starting a JDF branch at Lake Tahoe as he plans to move here in about two years.
Robert Olmer, an Incline resident and a board member of the Reno branch, said a Lake Tahoe branch will be value added.
“It certainly is a welcome addition,” Olmer said.”I’d like to be involved too. I’m very impressed with the Reno branch, but I’d like to help here too.”
Their first step is to schedule a research briefing and set up a steering committee to help form a board of directors and organize volunteers.
Ball has plenty of ideas to raise funds and awareness for the new branch, “we’re hoping to do big things- like a cross country ski race or a golf tournament.”
Ball said she’d also like to have someone on the cutting edge of research give a talk.
Her husband, Jamie Ball, has ideas of his own to support her endeavors, such as getting donations from the public, auctioning them on the Internet and giving 100 percent of the takings to the JDF.
Ball wants the Lake Tahoe branch to involve the whole lake community, north and south. To start with, she will be running the Lake Tahoe JDF branch out of her Incline home.
For more information, call (775) 831-7191.
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