Sometimes I just have to take a moment and appreciate how blessed I am.
I did that Saturday night after attending the JDRF Dream Gala at the Omni hotel downtown. JDRF is the leading global organization funding Type 1 Diabetes. With my job at People Newspapers I get to go to a lot of luncheons and galas, and while it is fun to get dressed up and go to fancy parties – something I never got to do as a crime or government reporter – that's not why I feel blessed.
I feel blessed because of the people I meet at these events and the amazing stories I get to be a part of. Whether it's bringing awareness to juvenile arthritis, groundbreaking research happening right in our backyard at the Center for Brain Health, or meeting amazing teenagers like Peyton Dooley.
These stories are a large part of why I wanted to be a journalist.
At first glance, Peyton seems like just a normal teenager. At a deeper glance, he is a teenager who happens to have Type 1 Diabetes. But digging a little bit more into his story I was blown away by his confidence and bravery.
Peyton, who is currently a sophomore at Highland Park High School, first found out he was diabetic the summer before seventh grade (August 2014). He was playing a lot of tennis at the time and his increased thirst and excessive need to go to the restroom didn't raise any concerns.
It wasn't until he got up five or six times during a movie that his older brother pointed out how abnormal it was.
A couple weeks later, he threw up at a tennis tournament.
When he went to the doctor, he'd lost 15 pounds and his blood sugar was at 600.
At the time, the technology wasn't there, so he gave himself a shot after every meal for a year and a half – and had to prick his finger and check his blood sugar up to 15 times a day.
When Peyton told me all he went through my first thought was, WHOA, that is a lot for such a young guy. I couldn't imagine having to do that at my age, which BTW is none of your business. But, what really impressed me about Peyton was how open he was with friends and classmates about his disease.
That openness really paid off one day at Six Flags when his blood sugar crashed in line for a roller coaster.
Because he was upfront with his friends and educated them about diabetes and what to do in case his blood sugar crashed or got too high, his friends were able to notice signs, get him out of line and to a concession stand.
"It helps to have people know what you have and what to do," Peyton said. "People like to ask about it and if you just answer their questions you can tell them."
Today, Peyton doesn't have to worry so much about monitoring his blood sugar – his mom can also sleep through the night instead of waking up to prick his finger to make sure it hasn't dropped too low after a day of playing tennis.
Because of JDRF, Peyton now has an insulin pump that mimics some of the functions of a healthy pancreas. Click here to learn more about the pump.
"I'm not as stressed," he said. "It's so much better. It is such a relief."
The pump also has cut down the number of times Peyton has to prick his fingers to about five times a day.
It is still a lot for a high school sophomore to deal with, which is why Peyton is one of my heroes. He also is my inspiration to start more conversations about serious issues, especially with young woman who may be too shy or embaressed to start on themselves.
I hope you do the same.