JAMESTOWN — Diagnosed with type 1 Diabetes eight years ago, Hannah Litke has mastered living with the oft-misunderstood disease.
Now the 15 year old Greeneview sophomore networking with others and help them learn how to cope. Litke was chosen as a JDRF Youth Ambassador for the upcoming school year, the second time she has participated as an ambassador.
This competitive program each year selects children who live with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and who serve as a great example of living with the disease.
“We are the face of JDRF,” Litke said. “I enjoy telling people what it’s like living with it. While having T1D is not fun at all, I have been able to meet so many others that are affected by this disease and I am really thankful for that. A lot of people don’t see the day-to-day stuff.”
T1D is an autoimmune disease that occurs with the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. It’s unrelated to diet or lifestyle and requires constant carbohydrate testing, blood-glucose testing, and lifelong dependence on injected insulin.
As an ambassador, Litke will provide health education throughout the community to raise support and awareness of T1D. She will speak to businesses, schools, and hospitals, as well as participate in JDRF-sanctioned outreach events.
“I just enjoyed it so much I decided to come back,” Litke said of re-applying for the ambassador spot.
One of Litke’s favorite events is the annual gala JDRF sponsors every May. It’s a fun event where attendees dress up in costumes and take photos.
“It’s really cool because on gala night they pair the older ambassadors with the younger ambassadors … (someone) they can loo up to,” Litke said. “It’s just a chance to connect with other type 1’s to know you’re not alone and there’s other people dealing with it.”
Litke and her parents, Jason and Melissa, will travel to Wisconsin in August for the JDRF’s annual Ride to Cure Diabetes fundraiser. It’s not just a bike ride. It’s also an opportunity for those with T1D or those who have a family member with it to come together.
Jason Litke said he used the ride as an “outlet” when Hannah was diagnosed. It’s a way for him to get support from other parents who knew what he was going through, he said.
What he and Hannah go through is a lot. As one of the estimated 30,800 southwest Ohio residents with T1D, Litke has to check her blood sugar multiple times a day. Before she eats, before she goes out to play — basically before any activity — Litke has to consider her blood sugar.
“There’s times when (she) would wake up in the middle of the night and have to drink a juice box,” Melissa Litke said.
When first diagnosed, Litke took multiple daily injections. Now she uses an insulin pump which only has to be changed out every few days.
“It hurts but after a while you get used to doing it,” Litke said.
The pump gives Litke more freedom and fewer needle pokes as she can simply adjust it to deliver the right amount of insulin as needed.
“This was never going to be something that was going to stop her from doing what she wants to do,” Melissa Litke said.
And as an ambassador, Litke wants to tell everyone about it.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.