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SECA: A diagnosis that changed a family

image of the The Huber family

The Huber family with (clockwise from the left) Shannon, Julie, Ben and Noah.

The State Employee Combined Appeal (SECA) provides all state and university employees the opportunity to donate to the charitable causes directly through their employer. Illinois State participates each year, giving our Redbird family members the chance to support their favorite charities through one-time donations or payroll deduction.

Who does SECA help? Redbirds like Julie Huber and her family. 

Julie Huber visibly cringes when people tell her she is strong. She knows they mean well, but strength wasn’t the first thing on her mind when Huber’s 5-year-old son, Benjamin, was diagnosed with diabetes last year.

“You do what you have to do, and deal with what is in front of you,” said Huber, who teams with her husband to manage their son’s care.

Ben was unique. Unlike many children with diabetes, he did not show symptoms or problems before he was diagnosed.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is one of many SECA charities. The SECA campaign kickoff will be October 18. 

Huber and her husband noticed one weekend that Ben was drinking a lot of water and running frequently to the bathroom. On Monday, Ben’s preschool teacher noticed the same. So Huber took her son to the doctor. Even after a battery of tests on their 4-year-old, they were expecting a diagnosis of a bladder infection. So the couple was shocked when they were told he had diabetes, and they needed to take Ben immediately to Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria because the level of sugar in his blood was skyrocketing.

“That was a long car ride,” said Huber, who was warned her son might pass out on the journey. After an overnight stay, it was confirmed that Ben had Type 1 diabetes.

“At first, you just want to get your child home,” said Huber, who had no history of diabetes in her family. “You don’t realize what is going on, and what it all will mean.”

You don’t realize what is going on, and what it all will mean. — Julie Huber

Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. In fact, the body’s immune system destroys the cells that release insulin, a hormone needed to allow sugar (known as glucose) to enter cells and produce energy. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) notes the onset of Type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. “There is nothing you can do to prevent it, and nothing you can do to get rid of it,” said Huber. Type 1 differs from Type 2, which can often be regulated by diet, exercise, medication. “I would love to have a calculation that would work and just go with it, but Type 1 doesn’t play that way. All you can do is manage it.”

Managing the disease means administering multiple pin pricks throughout the day and night to check Ben’s glucose levels, monitoring every morsel of food he eats, and giving their son enough insulin through shots or an insulin pump to counteract any carbohydrates he consumes. “We took a crash course over a couple of days’ time when he was first diagnosed,” said Huber. She and her husband learned about the illness at the Pediatric Diabetes Resource Center at Children’s Hospital of Illinois, and with resources from the JDRF. “With Type 1, you are always on call to see how he is doing and always evaluating what works and what doesn’t.”

The Hubers started Ben on an insulin pump this summer that distributes varying levels of insulin throughout the day and night, and always have short-term insulin shots on hand in case there is a malfunction with the pump. “Four of his preschool teachers went to Peoria to be trained on how to watch for symptoms of high or low blood sugar, to calculate insulin dosages for meals, and to handle critical situations that may arise due to his Type 1 diabetes. They are absolutely wonderful,” said Huber, who also taught their babysitter how to understand Ben’s new set of needs.

Ben is still an average 5-year-old. Huber said he loves to go out and play, likes preschool, and has been a trouper throughout the illness. “He is a tough kid, and a good egg,” said Huber, “but we wish that he didn’t have to go through some of the things that he does in order to stay healthy.”

The Hubers have joined the annual walk for JDRF, and found many other parents all wishing the same things for their children. “Our sincere hope is for a cure for Type 1 diabetes, and I know that people have been working on this for a long time,” said Huber. She pointed to progress, especially the recent approval by the Federal Drug Administration of an “artificial pancreas” that will automatically dose insulin based on blood sugar levels. “My hope is that our son grows up to be healthy—what every parent wants.”

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is listed under the Community Health Charities of Illinois on the SECA: Illinois website. Find more stories of how SECA charities impact the lives of those at Illinois State on the SECA: Redbirds Care page. The 2016 SECA Campaign runs until November 15. An ice cream social will kick off this year’s SECA Campaign on October 18.