Matthew McKay was sleeping at his grandparents’ home in August of 2018. Although he was running around and having fun like a typical 5 year old, his grandmother noticed a few things that seemed a little off – he didn’t have much of an appetite, was extremely thirsty, and was urinating frequently.
Matthew’s parents, Jennifer and John, had been noticing these symptoms as well, and so his grandmother decided to check his blood sugar with a meter she had at home. The reading was 388 – almost four times the normal level. Thinking it may just be a fluke, the family decided to check again later that day.
That afternoon when they tested again, the reading was even higher at 580. Jennifer immediately took Matthew to the hospital, knowing exactly what these readings meant. At the hospital they confirmed her suspicion. Matt had type 1 diabetes (T1D), a disease in which the body stops producing insulin (a hormone essential to turning food into energy). It’s an autoimmune disease that strikes children and adults suddenly, and has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. T1D cannot be prevented, and at present, there is no cure.
Jennifer was familiar with T1D, as her brother, Bo, was diagnosed with the disease at 12 years old. That meant Jennifer knew what to expect as far as managing the chronic condition, but that didn’t change the devastation of learning her son would now have to live with the daily finger pricks, insulin injections, and the constant balancing act of efforts to keep high and low blood sugars under control.
As a family, they had to adjust to their “new normal”.
T1D management has come a long way in recent years. Matthew wears a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that reads his blood sugar levels every five minutes, and then sends those readings to Jennifer’s phone. She can keep an eye on his levels throughout the day, even while Matthew is at school.
The CGM will also alert her to any dangerous highs or lows so they can be treated, which is especially helpful during the overnight hours. Technology like the CGM is available in part due to funding from JDRF, the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes research.
JDRF-funded research is making life easier and safer for those living with T1D, like Matthew and his Uncle Bo. It’s difficult for Jennifer to hear her child say that he doesn’t want to be a diabetic anymore, and wishing she could take it away from him.
On Saturday, Sept. 28, the McKay family plans to participate in the JDRF One Walk in Nashville. Walk Day is also an especially fun time for Matthew, as he gets to meet other kids his age living with T1D.
To support Matthew’s walk team, go to walk.jdrf.org, search for Matthew McKay, and click Donate.