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[IP] Destructive disease: Boca boy battles to stay one step ahead ofdiabetes

Here's an article from our local paper:

Unfortunately it didn't appear on line.  I made an attempt to type it out.

Boca Raton News
Section D
Tuesday, November 23, 1999

Destructive disease
Boca boy battles to stay one step ahead of diabetes

By Kate McClare
Staff Writer

Zachary Ullman was just a baby when he was diagnosed with diabetes.  At 15 
months, he was too young to understand why his mother kept hurting him with 

"I had to hold him down under the table (for his insulin shots)," recalls his 
mother Ellen Ullman.  "He'd run away."

Zachary is 12 now, and long ago stopped resisting the insulin shots that keep 
him alive.  He manages his illness himself, checking his own blood-sugar 
levels and adjusting his insulin dosage as he needs.  For him and his parents 
and younger sister, who live in west Boca Raton, management of diabetes has 
become a seamless part of the day's routine.

For his parents, especially his mother, part of the routine is the search for 
a cure for the illness suffered by about 18 million people.  They have 
accepted the chores of the disease, but they have not accepted the disease 

Ellen and Jeffry Ullman work closely with the University of Miami's Diabetes 
Research Institute, to educate people about diabetes and support the 
institute's efforts to find a cure.  Ellen spends much of her day on the 
Internet, maintaining a Web site devoted to informing and uniting families of 
children with diabetes.

The message she most wants heard is that diabetes is a life-threatening 
illness, not an inconvenience that can be overcome by taking insulin and 
avoiding sweets.  According to the Diabetes Research Institute, it is the 
leading cause of blindness in adults ages 20-74.  It can lead to many other 
life-threatening complications, including kidney failure and heart disease.  
Insulin does not stop the disease's steady attack on the body's organs.

"I'm trying to spread the word that diabetes is a destructive disease," Ellen 
says.  "It's destroying my son's body, and it can only be cured with funding 
(of research projects)."

Diabetes comes in two types.  Almost 1 million people have Type 1, which used 
to be known as juvenile diabetes, because it is most often diagnosed in 
children.  It develops because the pancreas becomes unable to produce 
insulin, the substance that feeds the body's cells by converting food into 
glucose.  Those who have it must inject themselves with insulin in order to 
stay alive.

About 17 million people have Type 2 diabetes, which generally occurs after 
age 40.  Their bodies do produce insulin, but ineffectively or in 
insufficient quantities.  Patients can take medication, but often the disease 
can be overcome with improved diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors.

Zachary has Type 1 diabetes, and always will until a cure is found.

His days begin and end with blood-sugar checks and insulin injections.  One 
recent morning, he got up at 4:20 a.m. to use the bathroom, so he had to 
check his sugar level.

Management of his illness is a little easier now that he uses an 
insulin-injection pump instead of syringes.  The pump simulates the workings 
of a real pancreas, delivering insulin through a catheter in his side.  It's 
a steadier, more reliable delivery system than a syringe, and it's easier for 
him to use as well.

But Zachary must still check his sugar levels, keep track of how many 
carbohydrates he ingests, and then figure out how much additional insulin his 
body needs in order to convert the carbohydrates into energy.

"Yes I am very good at math in case you were going to ask the question," he 
says in his family's kitchen at about 6:45 a.m., as he bustles about to 
prepare his breakfast: a cup of Kix cereal, a cup of Captain Crunch cereal, 
one packet of Instant Oatmeal, a cup of milk, and a packet of instant hot 
chocolate.  He adds the carbohydrates (116.75), divides that by one insulin 
unit per 11 grams of carbohydrate, and dials the pump to give him 10.5 units 
of insulin.  He gets one unit per 20 grams at lunch, and one unit per 24 
grams at dinner.

He's been on the pump since second grade.  "Before, I had to eat healthy 
things all day," he says.  Now he can handle more sweets because the pump 
makes it easier to work those foods into his diet.  He isn't usually tempted 
to overindulge in sweets, however; he's been vegetarian since second grade.

The pump, he says, is "easier but a little annoying, because I have to change 
the site (of the catheter) a few times a week.  The low-battery alarm will go 
off in school, and I have to take it off during gym class.  No pockets in my 
shorts," he explains.

"But I can  have a little more freedom in my life," he adds.  "In school, if 
I had a high sugar and needed a shot, I'd probably have to walk down to the 
office."  With the pump , he can quietly dial up a little more insulin.

Zachary's illness seems little noticed at Carver Middle School in Delray 
Beach, where he attends sixth grade.  "He might say he needs to use the 
bathroom right away, but mostly he just does what he needs to do and takes 
care of it himself," says Zachary's science teacher, Laura Viergutz.

She admits she was apprehensive at the beginning of the year when she first 
learned she'd have a child with diabetes in her class, "But his mother had a 
conference with all of his teachers, and she told us what to expect and that 
he can handle this himself."  Ellen Ullman supplies his teachers with pieces 
of hard candy, in case his blood sugar drops.

Ellen Ullman has always started Zachary's school year that way, and Zachary 
says it hasn't always been easy.  "My mom sometimes has to fight with some of 
my teachers against rules like going to the clinic for insulin.  Like if a 
kid is having a diabetic episode, he's going to have time to walk to the 

Zachary's parents are hopeful that one day, children won't have to choose 
between needles and pumps, because their diabetes will have been cured.  
Ellen figures her son has had more than 18,000 blood-sugar tests in his short 
lifetime, and she would be happy if he never had another one.

"A lot of organizations are focused on treatment," Jeffry Ullman says, "but 
we'd rather cure it, than just treat it for the next 20 years."
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