Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Fighting Diabetes with Research

noem press header Fighting Diabetes with Research
By Rep. Kristi Noem
July 17, 2015

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Earlier this month, I met Maddie.  Maddie is 14 years old and from Sioux Falls.  She’s an incredible singer and a dedicated dancer with dreams of appearing on Broadway someday.  And she, like 42,000 South Dakotans, lives with diabetes.

Maddie has lived with Type 1 Diabetes for half her life.  She was only seven when she was diagnosed.  Her parents had noticed a significant uptick in the amount of water Maddie was drinking, and even with the increased water intake, Maddie seemed dehydrated.  It turns out the dehydration came because her kidneys were working overtime and still couldn’t quite keep up.  It was a classic symptom of diabetes.

Maddie has handled her diagnosis incredibly.  When she isn’t singing or dancing or acting, she’s advocating for increased diabetes research.  It was in her role as an advocate – a delegate to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Children’s Congress, in fact – that I had the chance to meet her.  Maddie told me that she hopes one day we can find a cure so kids like her don’t have to go through the needles and the poking and the feeling sick that she’s had to go through.

I was glad to tell her that Congress agreed and that we had made funding for diabetes research a priority.  Just this last March, we extended a special program for Type 1 diabetes research as part of H.R.2, which passed Congress and was signed into law by the President.  With more than 1.25 million Americans living with Type 1 Diabetes today – a reality that is costing the U.S. economy $245 billion annually – it’s important we do all we can to fight for a cure.

Just a few weeks ago, Gage – my 10-year-old nephew – was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes too.  His older brother Hunter had been diagnosed with it a few years back.  A few days after Gage got way home from the hospital in Sioux Falls where he learned how to give himself shots and test his blood, he told my sister-in-law: “If God is going to heal me or Hunter, I hope he heals Hunter.  He’s had diabetes a lot longer than me.”  It was an innocent phrase from an incredibly sweet and selfless boy, but I want so badly to be able to tell him one day that because of the incredible work of researchers, he and Hunter can both be healed.

We have a long ways to go before Maddie, Gage, and Hunter can be cured of this disease, but I’m glad we are at least getting closer every day.

Noem Meets With Maddie McElroy
June 15, 2015