10-year-old Williamstown girl raising awareness of Diabetes

Photo Provided Lauren Smith, 10, a student at Williamstown Elementary School, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes on Dec. 11. Her family is attempting to raise $16,000 for a Diabetic Alert Dog for her.

WILLIAMSTOWN — Lauren Smith of Williamstown is a 10-year-old girl on a mission.

A student at Williamstown Elementary School, Lauren was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes — also called Juvenile Diabetes or Insulin-Dependent Diabetes — on Dec. 11. She and her family have their sights set on raising $16,000 for a Diabetic Alert Dog to help manage her condition.

In the process, they are hopeful they will spread awareness about Type 1 Diabetes and assist others in recognizing symptoms so that life-threatening circumstances can be avoided.

“I began noticing increased urination, intense thirst, lethargy and just a general washed-out look,” Heather Smith, Lauren’s mother, said. “The day I took her to be checked, her blood glucose was 509. We went straight to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus and spent a rigorous three days in the hospital with her — most of that was spent learning how to dose insulin and to properly care for her.

“I am grateful that we were able to avoid Diabetic Ketoacidosis, which is a serious condition and onset can be rapid,” Smith said.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis is a potentially life-threatening complication of Type 1 Diabetes. Signs and symptoms may include vomiting, abdominal pain, deep gasping breathing, increased urination, weakness, confusion, and occasionally loss of consciousness.

At times, these symptoms can be mistaken for the stomach flu, which can have devastating results, she said.

Lauren’s family has partnered with Lily Grace Service Dogs of Sandpoint, Idaho, and 4E Kennels, which is located about an hour outside of Las Vegas.

Lily Grace has a Facebook page and posts videos of her training sessions. Her website is at www.lilygraceservicedogs.com.

With the purchase price, training fees and transportation, the cost of a service dog is about $16,000. Lauren’s family has set up a GoFundMe account at https://www.gofundme.com/4y4rukw to assist with the costs.

A trust account also was established at Williamstown Bank. Contributions can be given to the family to deposit into this account. Checks can be made out to “Lauren Smith Trust Savings Account”.

A spaghetti dinner fundraiser organized by the family will be held 5-8 p.m. March 16 at the American Legion in Williamstown. Tickets are available at the door, but can be purchased in advance at the Legion.

All presold tickets will be put into an early bird drawing for a gift card. The spaghetti dinner will also feature a silent auction and a 50/50 drawing, among other activities.

Lauren’s family hopes to have a dog for Lauren by the end of summer.

A Diabetic Alert Dog is trained to react to the chemical change produced by blood sugar highs and lows. They also provide emotional security and a sense of balance for individuals with diabetes.

“We are so grateful to our family, our church, our school, and our community for rallying behind us,” Smith said. “We could not have navigated this diagnosis without them. Between the donations and care packages we have received already and the words of encouragement and offers of assistance, we are aware that we are clearly blessed.”

Diabetes is a lifelong disease for which there is no cure. Type 1 Diabetes is often called Juvenile Diabetes or Insulin-Dependent Diabetes.

With Type 1 Diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks its own pancreas. Scientists are not sure why, but think that it could be due to an “environmental trigger” of some sort. For some, there is a definite genetic component.

With Type 1 Diabetes, the immune system mistakenly sees the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas as foreign, and destroys them. This attack is known as an “autoimmune” disease. Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the glucose to enter and allow you to use the glucose for energy.

Without insulin, there is no “key”, so the sugar stays and builds up in the blood. The result: the body’s cells starve from the lack of glucose.

People commonly mistake Type 1 Diabetes with Type 2 Diabetes. They have similarities, but are different. One of the biggest misconceptions with Type 1 Diabetes is that it is caused by eating too much sugar.

“We find that there is confusion about whether or not a Type 1 Diabetic can consume sugar at all. We obviously try to feed Lauren a balanced diet and do sugar in moderation, but it is absolutely OK if she has birthday cake or a snack,” Smith said. “We just have to properly prepare and dose her the insulin to cover those carbs. Lauren is a happy, sweet-natured 10-year-old kid just trying to navigate a new diagnosis and we are trying to keep things as normal as possible for her.”

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