A major Greenville area fundraiser to support a cure for type 1 diabetes (T1D) was created eight years ago in by a family more deeply affected by the disease than most.
With more than 30,000 people in southwest Ohio living with T1D, many children are diagnosed each year. But the Barga family of Ansonia has three children diagnosed, and though the disease has not been found to have a hereditary link, it has been frightening for this family to think that their fourth daughter may yet be affected.
“My son, Isaac, was diagnosed when he turned a year old,” Janel Barga said. “My mom was watching him, and she thought he was sick because he didn’t seem quite like himself. We took him to the doctor, and they noticed right away this smell on his breath (a diabetic symptom), and he was 99 percent sure he was diabetic. They ran tests and confirmed it.”
Janel said this began her family’s emotional ride as they dealt with insulin injections and counting carbohydrates. Janel wasn’t certain if she would be able to keep her full-time job and leave Isaac in the care of a baby sitter or care for him herself. “I walked around the ICU in a daze, and then I realized there were others that were much worse off, and I knew we could manage this and he could live a normal life and that’s what woke me up,” she said.
A few years later, big sister Hannah was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 9.
“We noticed it with her right away since we’d been through it before, but it’s still overwhelming when your child is in the hospital,” Janel said. “You just have to take it day by day and just when you think you are going to have it mastered, it’s challenging at times when they go to parties and eat ice cream and cake.”
Janel and her husband, Randy, also had a third child, Emma, who was diagnosed with T1D when she was just 4 years old. “At this point I was really questioning why all of our children were getting hit with this disease,” Janel said. “But my husband likes to say if it’s another child coming down with the same disease we already know what we are doing, we can handle this and God doesn’t give you what you can’t handle!”
The Barga family will all join their extended family, including cousin Lilly, who also has type 1 diabetes, at the eighth annual Ohio State Benefit Pull. The event has raised more than $50,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) since its inception.
Hannah, who is now 18 years old and is a graduating senior from Ansonia High School, will be participating in the event, along with her siblings and extended family.
“When I was first diagnosed it was all new to me,” Hannah said. “It was hard to adjust, because I wasn’t used to living that way and I couldn’t do the same things as the other kids.”
Hannah and her brother, Isaac, now 12 and sister, Emma, 8, all wear insulin pumps, which helps regulate blood sugar automatically. “It’s so much easier,” Hannah said. “We all have struggles throughout life, and diabetes isn’t one of the worst diseases, but I think people should come out to support this event because there are so many young kids being diagnosed. It’s not the greatest disease to live with, and we are hoping for a cure.”
Hannah’s uncle, Ron Barga, who created the event in honor of his nieces and nephew who suffer from the disease, couldn’t agree more. “It could be any day that one of my kids gets diagnosed (with T1D),” he said. “Or it could be another family member of friend. My family is close, and my mom and dad raised us that way. It’s important to us to find a cure. We try to make this event fun for the entire family.”
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