Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Fountain Goes Blue to Eradicate Diabetes

Fountain Goes Blue to Eradicate Diabetes

From New York's Empire State Building to Paris's Eiffel Tower, landmarks around the world — including here in Columbia — were turned blue Monday in recognition of World Diabetes Day.

That's why at noon Monday, representatives and supporters of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Palmetto Chapter poured bottles of food coloring into both of Five Points' fountains, transforming their waters a bright blue.

Though the event did not include a fundraising component, Dana Bruce, the Palmetto Chapter's executive director, said she hoped it would help raise awareness about Type 1 diabetes.

"Many people don't understand that it's an autoimmune disease — that no one did anything to get this disease; it's the body attacking itself," she said. "We thought this was a great way to raise awareness — a bright blue color, something simple that we could do as a group...that will last all day long."

Juvenile diabetes, she said, is an increasingly visible disease, as nearly all Columbia schools have a student who has been diagnosed, and awareness efforts are on the rise.

But for the families and friends who are affected, it has a profound impact on daily life.

Greta McMahon came with her 10-year-old daughter Morgan, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 3.

"It changes your whole way of life," she said. "Everything you buy for your family to eat or drink, everything she puts in her mouth has to be monitored."
Ruskin Foster, a third-year economics student, echoed that sentiment and explained how diabetes has impacted him.

"It literally has changed my life completely. I was diagnosed at 8 years old; I hardly remember the life without diabetes," he said. "There's nothing worse than feeling that you're helpless against the disease. That's what most people don't understand — that I'm going to wake up every morning for the rest of my life with it."

The disease impacts him every day, from weekday meals to weekend parties.
"You can't do what most people here do," he said. "I can't live the party life that everyone else lives because I have to worry every morning about waking up with something...I can't go out and drink a handle because I might not wake up."

Even eating on campus can become a tricky struggle.

"Really, you have to do all the research on your own," Foster said. "They don't have books sitting around telling you how many carbs are in [a meal]; they don't really go for diabetic-friendly food because they have to satisfy so many people."

As a result, he said, he and other diabetics often have to fend for themselves and look out for each other.

Once, that meant borrowing insulin from another diabetic in Athens, Ga.; mostly, though, it means Foster wants to spread awareness for the disease so he and other diabetics can get support and help if they need it.

"If you ever meet a diabetic, ask them what it's like. Get their perspective," he said. "The more people are aware, the better the disease is going to be treated and the closer we're going to get to a cure."

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