LIONS OFFER HOPE AND SUPPORT TO PEOPLE LIVING WITH DIABETES. On the endocrine floor at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, nurse Jamie Connelly aims to be like “that nurse”—the nurse who stuck her head in Connelly’s hospital room back in 2005 when she was 11 and diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. “I just wanted you to know that I’m working today. I also have diabetes, and I was diagnosed when I was 11. I was at this hospital,” she recalls the nurse saying to her. In that moment, Connelly, the granddaughter of Maryland Lions Jack and Joan Magee, knew she was not alone. She also knew, she says, “that I could totally do that.” She could be a nurse like that one and help other children live with a disease that often begins in childhood but lasts a lifetime. She learned to manage. At age 11, that meant checking her blood sugar was as much a part of her routine as practicing her flute. Counting carbs was sixth-grade math that other kids didn’t have to do. Sleeping in was never an option because her blood sugar had to be checked every morning whether it was a school day or a Sunday. For years, at home, at school or during her much-loved summer days at Lions Camp Merrick—for which she thanks the support of the Cecilton Lions—she endured eight shots a day. Although she still regularly checks her blood sugar and counts her carbs, her newest “really cool regimen” has her taking only one shot every two or three days to insert her insulin pump site, she says with glee. “It’s always hard, but with the very young children who don’t quite grasp it yet, it’s harder for the parents because they know that this is a lifetime thing,” Connelly says. “Nobody wants to see their kid get diagnosed with something like this.” While the cause of type 1 diabetes (characterized as the body’s inability to produce insulin) is not known, type 2 results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin—often the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity. And more than 60 percent of adults and 30 percent of children in the U.S. are overweight or obese. One of three adults in the U.S. has prediabetes, and 9 out of 10 don’t know it, according to the World Health Organization. That’s where the need for screenings becomes evident. Around the world, Lions are promoting awareness and offering screenings that alert individuals to their need for medical care or a lifestyle change. In Florida, Lions have screened more than 140,000 people and trained another 10,000 to do the same, says Past District Governor Dr. Norma Callahan, president of the Lions Diabetes Awareness Foundation in Multiple District 35. “Out of every screening we have at least 10 percent that need to be referred,” says Callahan. “People come back to us and say, ‘You’ve made such a difference in my life.’” Connelly’s father and grandfather are among the people who have come back. In a letter to the Cecilton Lions, Jim Connelly wrote that his daughter’s diabetes camp experience could not have been possible without the graciousness of Lions. “Your charitable work helps people in ways you may never learn about.”
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