The Diabetes Epidemic

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Categories: Health & Fitness

Kim Koleber stands in the backyard of her event center, where she has been advocating during the pandemic.

Diabetes has become the dark horse companion to COVID-19, as 40% of virus-related deaths during the pandemic have had a diabetes component. Of course, diabetes has been a medical rancor predating the virus, affecting 34 million Americans. Here in Oklahoma, 356,000 people have diagnosed diabetes, an additional 93,000 have diabetes, but don’t know it, and an alarming 35% of the adult population have prediabetes. The cost of diagnosed diabetes is estimated in Oklahoma to be $3.8 billion.

This was the nightmare that Kim Koleber first experienced in 1988. Kim’s child was diagnosed with the flu a month before her third birthday, but unlike most children, Megan never rallied. Even after extensive treatment that included fluids and extra food, Megan was still losing weight and growing pale. On Easter Sunday that year, Megan just wanted to sleep all day, eschewing her Easter dinner and choosing to nap instead of finding the hidden Easter eggs in the lawn. Kim knew something was very wrong and took her to the family pediatrician, who was able to quickly diagnose her with Type 1 diabetes after he saw that her blood sugar level was six times the normal high-end amount. Megan was admitted to the St. Francis ICU, where she was put on a slow IV drip of insulin and spent seven days fighting for her life.

Megan survived the medical scare, and during the next 10 years the Koleber family found their advocacy voices and mission to share “Megan’s Story” to at least one new person daily. Today, Megan is 35 years old and carries a glucagon emergency kit, along with wearing an inserted insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor at all times, but that hasn’t stopped her from having a successful career as the Executive Director of Broken Arrow Neighbors, an emergency basic needs service provider. Megan has walked among Congress, spoken at the Capitol, and sent letters to presidents and Speakers of the House advocating for diabetes research and support at both the federal and local levels. Meanwhile, Kim has found her place as an advocate in the Oklahoma Legislative Diabetes Caucus, first being involved in the Diabetes Action Plan (Senate Bill 250) of 2015.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and November 14th - the birthdate of Dr. Banting, who discovered insulin - is celebrated worldwide. Prior to Dr. Banting’s 1921 discovery of insulin, diabetes was a death sentence. It’s for this reason that he sold the patent to Eli Lilly for just $1. Unfortunately, the three manufacturers of insulin - Eli Lilly, NovoLog, and Sanofi - sell the $6 product for over $300 per vial, forcing 1 in 4 people with diabetes to ration their insulin. Today, Kim and the entire Oklahoma Legislative Diabetes Caucus fight to ensure that those diagnosed with diabetes don’t have to go without the lifesaving medication. Kim says that “insulin for someone with diabetes is like air for anyone else,” and that one of the most heart-wrenching episodes she’s had to face is when she or Megan has dropped a vial of insulin and watched as the $300 medication washed over the floor. Kim and the caucus continue to work with legislators to ensure that no person with diabetes has to feel that accidentally dropping a dose of their insulin amounts to the biggest mistake of their life.

Senators Frank Simpson and Carri Hicks co-lead the caucus and are available to take any calls you have regarding the fight against diabetes.

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