Jaime and Andy Norris, two Glen Ridge brothers with Type 1 Diabetes, are using their time and talents to change the future for people with the life-threatening autoimmune disease.
The boys on Saturday participated in the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes in Saratoga Springs, New York, with the goal of raising more than $15,000 for research to find a cure. And this summer, Jaime, a freshman at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, and Andy, a 6th grader at Montclair Kimberly Academy, traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with congressional leaders as volunteers for JDRF Children’s Congress.
The two, supported by their parents, Alisa and Toby Norris, have also raised funds to support JDRF through the JDRF One Walk in Jersey City for the past eight years. The family has worked to raise awareness of the disease and has raised nearly $200,000 through the JDRF New Jersey Metro and Rockland County Chapter.
Both boys were diagnosed with the disease in 2008 — Jaime at the age of four and Andy at the age of three. T1D occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. While its causes are not entirely understood, scientists believe both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is no cure.
Both boys must check their blood sugar as often as 15 times a day and they require precise injections of insulin throughout the day to stay alive. Yet even the most vigilant efforts to keep blood sugar at normal levels can fail to prevent T1D complications, such as blindness, kidney disease and heart disease. Sleep can be anxiety-filled for parents of children with the disease because that’s often when dangerous, potentially catastrophic low-blood-sugar episodes can occur.
“It’s a relentless disease and you can’t make a mistake,” Jaime said. “We want to help our family and we also want to help all the other people with T1D. We can change the future for people with this disease and that’s what we’re trying to do any way we can.”
The boys, both athletes, regularly check their blood during their baseball or soccer games, and during school. Friends no longer notice as they prick their fingers to obtain blood to test or if they inject insulin. Andy said he and his brother want to raise awareness of the enormous challenges of living with T1D.
“From the outside, if you don’t know us, we look like any other kids,” Andy said. “But living with T1D is scary sometimes. You can never get a day, or even an afternoon, off from type 1 diabetes.”
Alisa Norris said JDRF is supporting exciting research around the world to cure T1D and also driving life-changing therapies to decrease the burden of living with the disease.
“Because of JDRF research, there’s now technology that I use to monitor my children’s blood sugar with my phone. This helps me keep them safe and I am so grateful,” she said. “We’re energized because research is moving ahead with insulin-producing cell replacement, better types of insulin, and more advanced tools and technologies. Real advances are being tested right now in human clinical trials.”
Andy said he often gets frustrated by having to continually test his blood sugar, especially before and after meals or exercise.
“I know I have to do it, though,” he said. JDRF estimates that as many 1.25 million Americans have type 1 diabetes. About 15,000 children and 15,000 adults are diagnosed each year.
The boys said they returned from the trip to Washington, D.C., with greater understanding of how individuals, even young people, can have their voices heard in the nation’s capital. The Norris brothers met with U.S. Senator Robert Menendez and his staff, and also staff for Senator Cory Booker.
“They really listened to us and wanted to know what it was like to live everyday with T1D,” Jaime said. He also said meeting with professional baseball player, Corey Vaughn, and actress Brec Bassinger, shows that people with T1D can live their dreams. Both also have T1D.
Click to support Jaime and Andy’s efforts to create a world without T1D.