"What is type 1 diabetes?"
Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the immune system attacks the insulin producing cells of the pancreas and destroys them. Without these cells, insulin cannot be produced. Without insulin, cells throughout the body cannot absorb glucose (sugar) in the blood, leading to high blood glucose levels that cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves, the heart, and can lead to a coma or even death.
A person with type 1 diabetes must compensate for this by injecting insulin and testing their blood sugar (by drawing blood from their fingers) many times throughout the day. It's a balancing act of counting carbohydrates, adjusting for exercise, and considering a host of other factors that affect blood glucose levels such as stress, overall health, and even elevation.
Currently, there is no cure for type 1 diabetes. If you have the disease, you have it for life. However, researchers are onto some very hot leads for improvement of care such as encapsulation, the artificial pancreas, and smart insulin which provide much hope for better care in the near future. The ultimate goal, however, is a cure for type 1 diabetes.
"Why are you doing this?"
We're doing this hike to make a difference. To bring closer a much needed cure for those living with type 1 and relief to their loved ones. To show people living with this disease that it can in no way limit or define them unless they allow it to. To show the world that you can do anything you set your mind to regardless of where you are from, your age, your afflictions, or your circumstances.
My passion for finding a cure for this disease has become stronger and stronger since my diagnosis, as I continue to meet so many people affected by this disease. I've made friendships with many who could lose their lives if they miscalculate their insulin dose before they go to bed. I've seen toddlers squealing as they run away from their much dreaded blood sugar tests, mothers and fathers crying over their children, diabetes camp counselors who are nearly blind in one eye as a result of this disease and haven't lived to be thirty yet, and people who have been living with this disease for 70+ years. Some of my best friends with diabetes have struggled. Just this year, two more people at my high school were diagnosed. And as I witness all of this, all that goes through my mind is that it needs to be stopped..
Raising funds for research for this disease brings us one step closer to better and more affordable treatments. It brings us closer to a day where those with type one don't have to worry about loosing their limbs, their eyes, their heart, or their life due to the constant struggles of managing it. And most of all, it brings us closer to a day where type 1 diabetes is no longer a threat of our future, but a problem of the past. We will not stop until that day comes, and when it does, we can say that we have persevered, overcome, and summitted diabetes.
"What's the plan?"
We plan to hike 221 miles on the John Muir Trail from Yosemite National Park to the top of the highest peak in the continental United States, Mount Whitney. Expecting to average roughly ten miles of alpine hiking per day, we will begin hiking on July 16th and finish three weeks later around August 6th. We are backpacking, meaning we will be carrying everything on our own backs for the entire duration of the hike. There will be two resupply points along the way for us to refill on food, while we can treat water from streams and lakes throughout the hike to stay hydrated. We will be hiking all by ourselves with no outside assistance other than resupply points along the trail.
"How much money do you hope to raise?"
After much deliberation, we decided to set our sights high and place our fundraising goal at $221,000, which represents $1000 per mile of the hike. Though it may seem a lofty goal for a 15 year old girl and her brother, we believe with enough help and support of those fighting for a cure for type 1 diabetes, it can be reached. Last summer Ethan and our brother Reid raised over $96,000 for Phoenix Children's Hospital, which saved his life a couple years back. Through the network of support for those with type 1 diabetes and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, we believe that together, we can reach this goal and bring researchers one step closer to finding a cure.
"Where does the money go to?"
100% of all the money raised goes straight to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. We will be financing the entire trip ourselves and will not be taking a single penny of donation money. The goal of our trip is to raise money to research for a cure for type 1 diabetes and we would never consider taking funds away from research to finance our expedition.
"How are you going to manage your diabetes out in the middle of nowhere?"
I will be wearing my Animas One Touch Ping insulin pump, which I have been using for the past three years. Instead of injections, the pump is attached to me through a site with tubing that allows the insulin to be delivered. The site must be changed every two to three days. In addition to testing my blood sugar 8+ times per day, I will be using the Dexcom G4 Platinum continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which illustrates your blood sugar trends and warns you if your numbers are going too high or low. Additionally, we'll carry a glucagon kit in case of a dangerously low blood sugar.
Managing my diabetes will be in no way easy. The intense physical activity and altitude will make managing my blood sugars significantly more difficult. High and low blood sugars will be inevitably common, so we will be taking much extra food, glucose tablets, insulin, and a backup meter and pump to ensure we handle anything the backcountry throws at us.