Four children living with type 1 diabetes are testifying on Capitol Hill today to urge lawmakers to invest in research that could provide a cure for the disease that afflicts nearly 3 million Americans.
"I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 6. I had been losing weight, wetting the bed at night and had extreme thirst. I was always tired and very emotional," Jonathan Platt, an 8-year-old from Tarzana, Calif., said in prepared remarks. "I was thinking, How did I get this disease? I didn't know what it was. I was very scared and nervous.
"I am here to ask you to continue to do your part and fund research to find a cure," he contintued. "A cure for diabetes means that I could go to any summer camp and have sleepovers whenever and wherever I want. It means I could be a regular kid again. Most of all, it would mean I would not have diabetes."
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation estimates that of the 3 million Americans who have type 1 diabetes -- in which the body does not produce insulin -- 15,000 children are diagnosed each year. This week close to 150 children gathered in Washington to participate in the foundation's children's congress, where children could interact with lawmakers and explain the importance of diabetes research.
Artificial pancreas technology was one initiative pushed by those testifying on the Hill today.
Kerry Morgan, a 17-year-old from Glen Allen, Va., has participated in three clinical trials for diabetes patients, including one last October that tested artificial pancreas technology.
"I can honestly say the closed loop artificial pancreas trial was the most amazing experience of my entire life and holds so much promise for people living with this disease," Morgan testified. "On the day the artificial pancreas is finally approved and released, people with this disease can say, 'Diabetes: There's an app for that.'"
Actor Kevin Kline, a celebrity advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, will discuss the challenges parents face when their children are diagnosed with diabetes and offer them help in how to cope when a family member is living with the disease.
"With each exciting new stage that children with type 1 diabetes reach -- whether it be starting kindergarten, going to summer camp, learning to drive or going off to college -- there is a mom, dad or loved one looking over their shoulder worrying about their safety," Kline said. "Many of these parents have become advocates, so that one day their child won't have to deal with diabetes anymore."
In a rare glimpse at the childhood of a Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor shared her own story of living with diabetes with the group of delegates Tuesday.
"I was ashamed," Sotomayor said as she described how she learned she had type 1 diabetes at the age of 7. Before she was diagnosed, Sotomayor had chronic thirst and wet the bed at night.
"It's a disease you have to deal with, but you can," Sotomayor told the group of children.
The Supreme Court justice continues to cope with diabetes, injecting herself with insulin four to six times a day.
One child asked Sotomayor if living with type 1 diabetes ever gets easier, to which Sotomayor replied, "Absolutely." She said having type 1 diabetes taught her discipline, which has helped her as a student and to land the job of her dreams as a Supreme Court justice.
"Figuring out how I felt all the time," she said. "All of that taught me discipline."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.