Events raising money to fuel diabetes research

Family driven to find a cure

Kelsie Walker dealt with a sinus infection at the beginning of July 2016 and wasn’t getting any better.

Her parents, Amanda and Chris Walker, noticed she lost weight, didn’t want to play, was tired and was drinking nonstop.

One night, they became especially concerned about how she looked, so the next morning, Amanda called their doctor and shared Kelsie’s symptoms.

Several of the symptoms were similar to what kids experience from a growth spurt, so Amanda and Chris never thought about anything else.

As Chris researched the symptoms, though, he thought it could be diabetes, so they gave Kelsie a blood test.

That revealed her sugar was 456. For someone her age, which was 7 at the time, it should be between 80 and 120.

Kelsie wound up at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health North in Carmel, and it was confirmed — she had Type 1 diabetes.

“They said we caught it early because they said most kids have to be lifelined by helicopter,” Chris said.

“In a couple more days, they said she would have been in a coma,” Amanda said.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone people need to get energy from food. It strikes both children and adults at any age and suddenly, and its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle.

Though the causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe both genetic factors and environmental triggers play a role. There currently is nothing people can do to prevent it, and there is no cure.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation exists to raise funds for research of Type 1 diabetes in hopes of there someday being a cure.

Since February, the Walker family has been raising funds for the foundation.

That’s also when they began seeking items for a silent auction that’s set for Saturday at St. Johns Masonic Lodge 20 in Columbus. That event, which runs from 5 to 7 p.m., also will include a dinner. For $5, you get a chili dog, hot dog or sloppy Joe along with chips, a cookie and a drink.

Proceeds from a recent multifamily yard sale also will go to the JDRF.

Then May 21, 14 members of the family’s Walking Dead Pancreas team will participate in the JDRF One Walk at Holiday World in Santa Claus. With the family being fans of the television show “The Walking Dead,” a friend who is a graphic designer is making team T-shirts with an image of a zombie-fied pancreas wearing tennis shoes walking.

Sponsors donating $200 or more will have their name on the back of the shirt.

Beyond the fundraisers, Amanda said they can continue to raise money. The team’s goal is $5,000 with each person wanting to raise $100.

Amanda said their purpose of fundraising is to bring awareness to Type 1 diabetes, which nearly 3 million Americans have, according to the JDRF.

“Before (Kelsie) was diagnosed, I knew what it was, but I didn’t know much about it,” Amanda said. “If you don’t raise awareness, people just don’t know what it is, and they don’t understand. We’re raising awareness and the money that they need to try to get a cure for this so she doesn’t have to go through this anymore or anybody else.”

By the time Kelsie was diagnosed, 95 percent of her pancreas was dead, Amanda said. Once Kelsie went into diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a buildup of acids in the blood, the pancreas started deteriorating.

Kelsie was at Riley for three days. At first, she was on an insulin IV and couldn’t eat for 12 hours until her sugar got down to a normal level.

Once she was released from the hospital, she was insulin-dependent and had to have a shot 15 minutes before every meal or snack and before going to bed. She also had to prick her finger several times a day.

In September, she switched to a continuous glucose monitor that’s inserted into her skin. Her blood glucose level is sent to her parents’ cellphone every five minutes.

She now has an insulin pump that goes into her skin, and it allows the dose of insulin to last longer.

“Instead of getting four to six shots a day, she’ll get one shot every three days, and all we’ll have to do is punch in her carbs, and that pump will give her insulin,” Amanda said. “She won’t be getting shots umpteen times a day now.”

Kelsie has five siblings, and Amanda said before her diagnosis, their chances of getting Type 1 diabetes was 1 in 300. Now, it’s 1 in 30.

Amanda said she has been checked through blood screening and isn’t a carrier, but her other children have not been checked. Chris said he has a cousin who is Type 1 diabetic.

Amanda and Chris were told by Kelsie’s doctor that they should see a cure for Type 1 diabetes in her lifetime, possibly as soon as within the next five years. Upgrading to a different pump could be coming soon.

Until there is a cure, the family will continue to raise funds for the JDRF.

They have considered raising money to purchase a diabetic alert dog for Kelsie, but that costs about $15,000. Members of the Follow the Son Motorcycle Club recently donated to the family’s cause and said they would be willing to do a benefit ride for the service dog next year.

The Walkers, however, hope a cure comes along and the dog isn’t needed.

“It would be fabulous,” Amanda said.

At a glance

The Walker family of Crothersville is raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Kelsie Walker, 8, the daughter of Amanda and Chris Walker, has Type 1 diabetes.

A dinner and silent auction event is from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday at St. Johns Masonic Lodge 20, 4131 Rocky Ford Road, Columbus. For $5, you get a chili dog, hot dog or sloppy Joe, chips, a cookie and a drink. Silent auction items include an autographed item by IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball, who has Type 1 diabetes; a Discovery Kids Color Me Playhouse; tools; a rose bush; a quilt; gift baskets; gift cards; an Indianapolis Colts pack; Louisville Bats tickets; and more.

On May 21, the family will participate in the JDRF One Walk at Holiday World in Santa Claus. Sponsors donating $200 or more will have their name on the team T-shirts.

To donate online, visit jdrf.org, hover over “Donate” and click on “One Walk.” Then search for the name “Kelsie Walker” and click on “Donate.”

For information, contact Amanda Walker at 812-498-6090 or cawalker3@msn.com.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.