When the Price family suddenly found themselves at Norton Children’s Hospital and their then 4-year-old daughter, Norah, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, their world was turned upside down. Their experience with learning a new normal has spurred the Price Foundation to make a $600,000 gift to the Children’s Hospital Foundation in support of the Wendy Novak Diabetes Center and initiatives that will help other families like theirs.
The gift through the Children’s Hospital Foundation will fund two positions centered around education – both for families and caregivers: The Norah Price Diabetes Educator in the Wendy Novak Diabetes Center at Norton Children’s Hospital and the Norah Price Fellow in Pediatric Endocrinology through Norton Children’s Hospital and the University of Louisville School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics.
“We want to give back because we were truly touched by the diabetes educators and the tremendous value they provide,” said Charles Price, Norah’s father. “At the time of Norah’s diagnosis, we didn’t know what to do, but we felt the educators met us where we were and helped pick up the pieces.
“We also know that with more children needing care from an endocrinologist comes the need for additional specialists. We wanted to broaden their reach by adding a fellow.”
“When a child comes into the hospital and is diagnosed with diabetes, there are a lot of questions,” said Jaime Walker, MSN, R.N., CDE, the newly named Norah Price Diabetes Educator. “From how to measure blood sugars to how much insulin a child needs, the experience can be daunting. Education is what makes it possible for families to resume a normal life with Type 1 diabetes.”
“Some children who are newly diagnosed are so sick that they require care in the ‘Just for Kids’ Critical Care Center at Norton Children’s Hospital,” said Michael B. Foster, M.D., pediatric endocrinologist in the Wendy Novak Diabetes Center at Norton Children’s Hospital and the University of Louisville. “Luckily, Norah’s family knew something was wrong and sought answers before her condition got worse, and we were able to help them move forward to a life of managing her condition.”
“We didn’t know what to ask so we asked everything and anything,” Price said. “We want others to experience this. Education is huge – there is so much we didn’t know when faced with the initial diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes.”
Around 150 children are diagnosed with diabetes at the Wendy Novak Diabetes Center at Norton Children’s Hospital each year. Nearly 1,500 children are receiving ongoing care for their condition from Wendy Novak Diabetes Center specialists at the University of Louisville.
“We’ve seen the number of children with Type 1 diabetes that we care for increase by more than 25 percent in just the past few years,” said Kupper A. Wintergerst, M.D., chief of Pediatric Endocrinology and director of the Wendy Novak Diabetes Center at Norton Children’s Hospital and the University of Louisville. “While some of this is due to the expertise available here, we know that the incidence of Type 1 diabetes is showing no sign of slowing here or across the world.”
Caring for children with diabetes, especially those who are newly diagnosed, requires a coordinated approach both in and out of the hospital. This starts with physicians, diabetes educators and caregivers in the hospital and continues with ongoing outpatient care by physicians, nurse practitioners, educators, nurses and care coordinators.
“This gift from the Price Foundation will help our caregivers in the Wendy Novak Diabetes Center expand the care children with diabetes in our community receive,” said Lynnie Meyer, Ed.D., R.N., CFRE, chief development officer, Norton Healthcare. “This will be through additional educators and physicians who can immediately help care for families in every stage of diabetes.”
Type 1 diabetes usually is diagnosed in children and young adults, and occurs when cells in the pancreas, damaged by the immune system, produce little or no insulin. Insulin is necessary for moving blood sugar into cells for storage and use as energy. When the body does not make enough insulin, the blood sugar builds up and cannot turn into energy. While no one knows the exact cause, this autoimmune disorder can be fatal if not properly treated.
Type 1 diabetes differs from Type 2 diabetes, which is more commonly diagnosed in adults. In Type 2, the body becomes resistant to the insulin it produces, often due to weight gain, poor diet and lack of activity. Ultimately, this results in high blood sugar as well. People with Type 1 diabetes must test their blood sugar five or more times per day. Treatment includes taking multiple insulin injections or using an insulin pump every day, along with maintaining proper diet and exercise. There currently is no cure.
In 2013, a $5 million gift from the Lift a Life Foundation established the Wendy Novak Diabetes Center at Norton Children’s Hospital and the University of Louisville. Established in 1999 through a charitable trust by David and Wendy Novak, the Lift a Life Foundation provides innovative grants to nonprofit partners serving Kentucky. An additional $1 million gift in 2016 established the Christensen Family Diabetes Sports Medicine Program with the intent to provide individualized monitoring and education for child athletes with Type 1 diabetes, as well as conduct research into the management of diabetes in the young athlete.