Jacki’s Story

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 Jacki Ettinger

Board Member and Mother of a child with type 1 diabetes

On August 4, 2006 my life and that of my entire family changed dramatically.

That is the day, my son Sam, then just 13 years old informed me that he thought he might have diabetes. You may wonder what led him to that conclusion. Heres what happened – Sam had spent the evening at home with his 16 year old brother, Alex. Alex observed that Sam drank 3 bottles of water, 2 cans of soda and went to the bathroom three times. Having just completed AP Biology Alex told Sam he must have diabetes. Sam went to the computer, looked up diabetes and decided he did have some of the symptoms.

Having no family history of it, and not believing it could happen to us, I dismissed his idea. I rationalized that of course he was thirsty, we had spent the day at the beach. I decided to watch him on Sunday. On Sunday, we spent another day at the beach, and I didn’t think he drank or urinated any more than the rest us.  My husband is an oral surgeon and has blood glucose meters in his office.  He decided to bring one home Monday so we could check Sam.

I didn’t sleep well Sunday night.  I kept thinking, what if Sam is right. Sam’s behavior hadn’t been great all summer, but I attributed it to adolescence. Monday morning I called our pediatrician and asked if I could bring in Sam to rule out diabetes. Three hours later we were on our way to AI Dupont Hospital for Children to admit Sam for Type I diabetes control.

I have to admit I didn’t take the news well. I was shocked and devastated. I have my Masters Degree in Nursing and was a certified pediatric nurse practitioner before I started my own family.

I knew how grueling a chronic illness type I diabetes is. Luckily for Sam and others like him, technology has come a long way and treatment modalities have greatly improved.

After an overnight stay at the hospital, Sam was discharged and started his extensive learning curve on management of type I diabetes. I spent the first week alternating crying and asking why us. Sam on the other hand was very optimistic and reassuring. He has learned via this internet search that intensive attention to his blood sugar levels should keep him on a healthy track.

He never asked why me. I have to say Sam was my inspiration that first week.

The next week I spent on the internet and talking to diabetes centers in Denver, New Haven, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Boston. I was searching for research studies to participate in. I found one in New Haven that was using anti-cd 3 drugs to try to maintain beta cell function and prolong the honeymoon period. Sam didn’t want to miss the first two weeks of 9th grade, so we declined the study.

I was now in action mode.

As a parent I would gladly have traded places and taken on his diabetes. Of course that wasn’t possible but I decided to commit myself to doing all I could to make his life easier and more manageable.

I didn’t want his chronic illness to have an adverse effect on him. Thus began my involvement with JDRF. Six weeks after diagnosis we attended the JDRF family picnic. I couldn’t introduce myself without crying. I felt an overwhelming sense of warmth and support and was asked to participate in the JDRF walk to cure diabetes. Our family and Sam’s friends and their family friends walked that October and raised over $10,000. If I thought I felt support during the picnic than I felt engulfed by a positive energy at that walk. I was hooked, I was going to volunteer and help JDRF raise money to find a cure for type I diabetes.

I was honored when I was asked to join the board. Our family has now participated in 3 walks, raising close to $45,000. This year we look forward to going over the 50K cumulative mark. I have worked on and attended three gala’s. My husband’s company, Delaware Center for Oral Surgery and Dental Implants, PA is proud to be a sponsor of JDRF events. We know first hand how grueling this illness is. It doesn’t allow one to take a break, or a day off. If Sam can’t have a break, I have vowed to work until there is a cure.

Sam and I had the most amazing experience this June when we attended the 10th JDRF Children’s Congress in Washington DC. In addition to meeting 151 other delegates with type I diabetes Sam got to meet President Obama, Brian Kenny, the former Miss Black USA, Jarad Allen, Mary Tyler Moore, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Nick Jonas. He also had meetings with Senator Carper and Kauffman and Congressman Castle. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

It is truly a pleasure serving on this board. All of the kids effected continue to inspire me. I hope that I am able to help make a cure a reality.