Drawing Courage After a T1 Diagnosis
In the book typecast, Andrew Deutscher profiles everyday heroes in the T1 community. The following is an excerpt from that book:
On a family trip to St. Louis in 2003, 9-year-old Kamaal Washington was constantly thirsty, thirsty to the point of downing 42-oz. drinks back-to-back and not being sated. When he began suffering stomach cramps, making frequent trips to the bathroom, and experiencing numbness in his fingers, his parents rushed him to an emergency room.
That first blood check when something is wrong with your child is a moment burned into your consciousness. Kamaal’s 6 siblings, his mother, Dana, and his father, Alonzo, were all there for that first bloodletting. Kamaal’s BG reading was 700 mg/dl. He was immediately transferred by ambulance to a nearby children’s hospital. It was there he learned that he had T1.
“I got really scared,” Kamaal said. “I was wondering what would happen to me.”
His parents wrestled with their own emotions. Dana recalls feeling tremendous guilt for not noticing the symptoms sooner. As they were discharging Kamaal, she broke down. She asked the nurse, “How am I going to do this? I don’t see how I can do this because it’s just too much for him! He’s too young for this!”
But Dana and Alonzo quickly accepted the hand they had been dealt to be there for their son. Each adopted clear roles in his care. Dana had the softer, more consoling role. She supported Kamaal on those days he just didn’t want to deal with having T1. She explained that it’s OK to go to the darker places in your mind and feel sorry for yourself at times. The important thing was not to stay in what she called “Pity City.”
Alonzo, a comic book-writer and community activist, took on the role of motivator. He let Kamaal know there was no way he was going to allow diabetes to own them. He encouraged Kamaal to do things, to speak out, to be unashamed, to overcome. The two began to eat healthy and work out together to stay in shape. Alonzo also knew it would be good for them to take action to battle diabetes in a public way.
The seed for their public action was planted during that very first hospital stay. The books that the diabetes doctors gave Kamaal were filled with big words and medical terminology. When Malcolm, Kamaal’s younger brother, visited him in the hospital and noticed all the hard-to-read books, he said, “We should do a comic book about this.”
The idea germinated, as comic book-writing runs in the family. Alonzo writes the Omega 7 comic book series, which features super heroes who fight crime and keep their communities safe. And so, Malcolm and Kamaal created a groundbreaking comic entitled Omega Boy versus Doctor Diabetes, an action-packed story designed to make it easy for kids to learn about diabetes and understand how to control the disease.
The boys have sold and donated to diabetes groups about 90,000 copies of the comic and have given about half of their $135,000 in profits to diabetes causes. The message promoted in the comic book is that you can be a hero against diabetes by taking a negative situation and making it positive. Kamaal also has served as a JDRF Children’s Congress delegate, and he has testified before the U.S. Senate about the need for diabetes research support. Both boys volunteer with their local JDRF and ADA chapters. They continue to spread their message and have graduated to promoting healthy eating and safe driving in their comics. Just as important, the comics helped Kamaal come to terms with his own T1, says Alonzo.
“Kamaal seems like a person who does not have a chronic illness. He is so active and happy,” says Alonzo. “Diabetes is a part of his life that he controls. He has no shame or depression about the diagnosis. He has taken on the fight like a true super hero.”
To read the complete profile of Kamaal Washington and other stories of T1 heroism, order typecast at https://secure.mybookorders.com/Orderpage/1226. To order Kamaal’s comic, go to http://www.omegamancomicbooks.com/html/DiabetesBook.html.
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