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[IP] Student will scale peak to send diabetes message, do research

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 16 NOVEMBER 2000Contact: David Williamson
<<A HREF="mailto:email @ redacted"><email @ redacted</A>
<<A HREF="http://www.unc.edu/"><University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill</A> Student will scale peak to send 
diabetes message, do research CHAPEL HILL -- On Jeremy Ackerman's 15th 
birthday, he learned that he had diabetes. His parents were dismayed, but 
young Ackerman set out to learn more about the disease and to learn how to 
manage it so he could still do the things he wanted to do.He strongly 
believes that people with diabetes -- especially younger ones -- need to know 
that the disease, while serious, doesn't have to limit them and that they 
"can do almost anything they want." To make that point, he and 15 other Type 
1 diabetic athletes from around the world will travel to Argentina Dec. 26 to 
climb Cerro Aconcagua, which, with a summit of 22,830 feet, is the highest 
point in the Western Hemisphere.Eleven years after the diagnosis, the 
Maryland native is a University of North Carolina M.D.-Ph.D. candidate with 
aspirations to surgery and a graduate degree in biomedical engineering. But 
he still finds time for the outdoor activities he loves. He's an experienced 
backpacker and trekker and has even dabbled in rock climbing -- all this 
while successfully managing his glucose levels.Ackerman, who admits that he 
was something of a terror to doctors in the early years of his disease, is 
now better able to understand doctor and family concerns about diabetes 
management. A founding member of the group, IDEA2000 -- or the International 
Diabetic Expedition to Aconcagua - the medical student says the goal of the 
ambitious project, which has been in the planning stages for more than two 
years, is three-fold."We want to raise awareness of diabetes and to inspire 
diabetics to achieve their goals," he says. "We want to raise $2.1 million to 
support diabetes care in underserved parts of Latin America, and, while we're 
doing all this, conduct scientific research on altitude's effects on 
diabetics and diabetes management."The experience should also be a lot of 
fun, he says. Group members traveling to Argentina represent a variety of 
mountaineering skill levels, according to Ackerman."A few are like me with a 
limited amount of experience. Others are very experienced mountaineers, like 
the director of the group and another climber from Spain," he says. "That's 
why there will be two teams heading up the mountain -- the 'summiting' group 
doing a challenging technical climb and the less experienced 'trekking' group 
following a non-technical route supporting the other climbers and the 
research effort.What members have in common is their understanding of their 
disease, Ackerman says. "Most of us are aware that you can do just about 
anything when you have diabetes. The hard part is knowing what issues to 
address and plan for. For example, insulin can freeze, which not only makes 
it impossible to inject but also renders it less effective. Insulin also 
stops working if it gets too warm."When the small electronic blood glucose 
meter used to measure sugar levels is taken to higher altitudes, the 
chemistry of the device changes. LCD displays and batteries present in 
watches, blood glucose meters and insulin pumps also are sensitive to the 
cold -- potentially affecting insulin delivery and diabetes management. 
Climbers worry about their insulin pumps failing much more than their 
watches. "When you get into the mountains, there's a whole range of effects 
on your physiology," Ackerman says. "There are all these factors, some not 
completely understood, that interact with diabetes. We have to decide how to 
control variables like how much insulin to take, how much food to eat and how 
much activity we can do. Some things we do from experience, and sometimes, we 
have to guess what will happen."As the project evolved, IDEA2000 came up with 
programs for tax-deductible donations, including sales of special T-shirts 
(delivered personally by Ackerman to save shipping costs to buyers). In 
addition, donors of $10 or more will be sent a postcard from the team in 
Argentina. Those who donate $100 or more will receive a prayer flag, which is 
like the small, lightweight flags mountaineers carry. "The idea is that we're 
carrying your hopes and dreams with us," he adds.
<For more information, call Ackerman at (919) 967-2146 or e-mail him at <A HREF="mailto:email @ redacted">
<email @ redacted</A><. The project's Web address is <A HREF="http://www.idea2000.org/"><www.idea2000.org</A>. Contact: 
<David Williamson, (919) 962-8596. <A HREF="http://www.eurekalert.org/cgi/users/toc"><Back to EurekAlert!</A> 
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