2 Northeast Ohio natives bonded at a diabetes camp. Now they’re on a mission to lift consciousness about Kind 1 diabetes


CLEVELAND – Two friends from Northeast Ohio, Colleen Chambers and Callie Leonard, are on a mission to raise awareness for type 1 diabetes.

“So a lot of people don’t understand that we have no choice but to inject insulin for the rest of our lives,” said Chambers.

The two grew up in northeast Ohio and met in 2009 in a diabetes camp.

Photos provided.

Colleen Chambers and Callie Leonard at summer camp.

“So we got together about it and then just got closer as we got older,” said Leonard.

The two friends are part of the non-profit diabetes awareness campaign “Beyond Type 1” to educate others about the disease.

There are currently about 1.6 million people with type 1 diabetes in the United States, and 200,000 of them are children. Along with asthma, it is the second most common childhood disease.

But many people are not diagnosed or misdiagnosed and the coronavirus pandemic has intensified that, which is why the two friends want to spread the word.

Type 1 diabetes is when the immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar.

Type 2 diabetes is when the body can initially make a lot of insulin, but the body becomes resistant to that insulin.

Warning signs and symptoms include extreme thirst, frequent urination, breath smelling of fruit, and even blurred vision.

“Symptoms are the same regardless of the type of diabetes, and therefore anyone of any age who has any of these symptoms should see a doctor urgently,” said Dr. Jamie Wood, director of pediatric diabetes at the University Hospital’s Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.

She added, “We have been diagnosed with Type 1 at Rainbow in two children under the age of 1 in the past few months.”

There is no cure and it can be fatal. Treatments are improving, however, thanks in part to technologies like wireless insulin pumps and glucose monitors.

“It’s so helpful to understand and better educate yourself and be aware of what someone else might be going through,” said Leonard.

Both Chambers and Leonard are now distinguished by their medical careers and are working to reduce the stigma surrounding diabetes.

“Hopefully very soon I can start working as a nurse and looking after children with diabetes, which is my goal,” said Chambers.

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