Will’s Way is the direct result of my son, Will Oberndorfer, being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of thirteen.
Like many families, we were not educated on the signs of type 1 diabetes. And, like many families – I remember the day; the minute Will was diagnosed.
The month before, I remember Will trying out for his middle school basketball team. He barely made the team. He looked skinny and had bags under his eyes. He frequently complained about being tired. He mentioned how he had to use the restroom multiple times a night. I remember thinking that his body was just changing. He was thirteen.
Then, a week before Thanksgiving Will came into our room and was upset.
“Mom, I have been up every hour using the bathroom. That can’t be right….”
I told him to go back to bed. I brushed off the severity of the issue, but now I think I just didn’t want to see. I made him a doctor’s appointment thinking that he probably had a bladder infection.
Tuesday, November 26, 2012
It was like a scene from a movie. Every medical person from the office entered the exam room. Our pediatrician made eye-contact with me, teared up and said, “Lisa, Will has ketones. We’re going to test his blood sugar next. It’s going to be bad. You need to call your husband and have him meet you here. Then, I’m going to let you go home and pack, but tonight – you’ll be staying in the hospital.”
Will started crying and I froze. The pediatrician grabbed my hand and sat me down.
“Listen to me carefully. You are going to the hospital as soon as a room opens up. You are going to go there and they will confirm that Will has type 1 diabetes. You’ll have to learn how to care for your child all over again.”
Will started crying harder. He wasn’t quite sure what all it meant, but he could feel the devastation in the room. He was so scared. Frankly, so was I.
We got to the hospital and Will’s two sisters met us there. The entire family tried to learn as much as possible about type 1 diabetes. Will had to learn how to check his blood sugar. The family learned what “in range” meant and how to give Will his life-saving injections. We learned how to read labels, calculate correction factors, food rates and free snacks.
“Do you know what hypoglycemia is?” asked a nurse.
“Have you ever heard of ketoacidosis?” asked another nurse.
We were all overwhelmed.
The Will to be Strong
After meeting with a dozen nurses that day, we had to meet with a social worker before leaving the hospital. We learned about what our rights were since our child was now considered “special needs” in the eyes of the educational system. We also were informed that we had to meet with Will’s counselor, teachers, principal and vice principal before Will was allowed to return to school. Everyone needed to be informed on how to keep Will safe.
It took three to six months before we knew exactly what we were doing. But, now we are managing his type 1 diabetes. Will is managing. He is handling the disease better than I could ever have imagined. We were lucky. We caught his type 1 diabetes early; before he got really sick.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic, incurable auto-immune disease. In type 1 diabetes a person’s immune system has attacked the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. Without insulin a person will die. Type 1 diabetics must inject synthetic insulin in order to live. This is accomplished by either taking multiple daily injections ( 5-7 times a day) or by using an insulin pump.
Will quickly started fundraising for JDRF after his diagnosis and within the next year, he had raised more than $8,000 from fundraising and speaking engagements. And, while we desperately wanted a cure, we realized that many children struggling with this disease did not have the means to maintain their health until a cure is found.
Both Will and I strongly felt that there was a huge need and that we could step in and make a difference.
And so, Will’s Way came into being.
What We Do
We give grants to families who have type 1 diabetic children. We make two types of grants.
- One is for durable medical equipment, primarily insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors.
- The other is an emergency cash grant that helps families in crisis afford daily diabetic supplies like insulin, test strips, syringes, alcohol pads, insertion sets and cartridges.
What really sets us apart is that we fund only underinsured families: families that have insurance, but have deductibles and co-pays that are so large it makes affording these supplies impossible.
To date we have helped over 10 children and currently we are in the process of funding an additional three. Our 2015 service goal is to help twice as many children. We are constantly fundraising and marketing ourselves in order to raise donations, and this year we will be focusing on applying for grants and seeking out corporate partnerships.
Lisa Oberndorfer, CEO
Mother of Will Oberndorfer