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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 29, 2003 - Issue 101


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Beating Diabetes

by Andrea Egger Gallup Independent

Food TriangleGALLUP — For most area fourth-graders, their backpack of school supplies doesn't contain an insulin "pen."

But for Patrick Esquibel II, 10, who goes to Indian Hills Elementary School, daily life requires this special pen, in which he can measure the amount of cubic centimeters of insulin he needs to offset his school lunch and then use the pen to give himself the injection. Esquibel was diagnosed at age 2 with Type I, or insulin-dependent, diabetes.

From toddler age on, Esquibel has had to take insulin shots every time he eats even a snack and that amounts to five times a day sometimes. Since age 7, Esquibel has given himself the shots under his parents' supervision.

"It doesn't matter if it is in the middle of Burger King," said his mom, Holly Esquibel. The family spoke from their home in Williams Acres Thursday evening. "We don't want him to be embarrassed he has diabetes."

She began a support group for juveniles with diabetes, which had its first meeting last month at the Children's Library.

Her son said he has a "tape" of his mom's voice running through his head: "She'll tell me, 'Take care of yourself or you'll lose your hands, feet, vision,'" he said. He said he's used to the routine now and wants to help other young people diagnosed with the illness.

When her son was first diagnosed with diabetes, Holly Esquibel said she knew what his symptoms probably meant, because her stepfather is a diabetic. At the time, the 2-year-old boy was urinating constantly, was always hungry mostly craving Kool-Aid and also got lethargic at times.

Clinic staff didn't take it seriously because of his age, and the lack of immediate family history with it. That is, until staff at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital's College Clinic tested his urine, which she dropped off one afternoon.

"By the time I got home, there was a message on my answering machine to bring Patrick to the ER don't feed him, don't bathe him," Holly Esquibel said.

The message didn't give any details as to what was wrong, but the urgency of the words didn't escape the Esquibels. At the hospital, they learned the tot's blood sugar registered over 500, with 80 to 120 being the normal range.

Her son was admitted to the hospital for three days, while physicians worked on getting his blood sugar to normal or at least, heading in that direction. At the same time, hospital staff crammed pamphlets at the parents and showed them how to give insulin.

"We immediately turned into the 'doctors' when we got home," said his father, Patrick Esquibel.

At first, Holly Esquibel said she had to hold down her son while her husband gave him the shot. The boy was too young to understand why he suddenly had to take these shots so often.

As he has grown, the boy began learning it's OK to have diabetes and it's a daily routine, just like taking a shower or bath. At age 10, Patrick Esquibel II is visibly proud at the maturity he's shown.

He's also interested in helping his mother determine how many units of insulin he'll need for different meals.

"He wants to eat lunch at school with the rest of the kids," his mother said.

So she learned how to determine, from the carbohydrates that will be served, how many units, or cubic centimeters, he'll have to inject at lunch time. He can eat whatever he wants, but he has to take insulin to compensate.

He said he's not concerned about the upcoming Thanksgiving celebration. About the only thing he can't have is cranberry sauce and candied yams.

He's more leery of Halloween, Valentine's Day and Easter because of all the candy. He eats some of the candy but doesn't usually finish his "trick-or-treat" bag by the time Halloween rolls around the next year.

"I don't really like candy, so that helps," he said.

His 6-year-old sister, D'Onna, supports her brother but had to confess Thursday night: "I love Snickers."

The family goes on marches for diabetes, like the one in Gallup annually in March, which is National Diabetes Awareness Month. November is National Diabetes Month, one month being more focused on awareness while the other focused on the disease itself.

During the march, they wear T-shirts with Patrick Esquibel II's picture that say: "I am stronger than diabetes."

Patrick Esquibel II won a poster contest one year, and he also marched next to former Navajo Nation President Kelsey Begaye. The Diabetes Calendar in 2001 featured a photo of Patrick Esquibel II.

Currently, he is the only student at Indian Hills Elementary School diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. His mother wanted to stress that he's not the only student with it, but the only student diagnosed with it. With the research Holly Esquibel has done on the disease, she knows it affects far more children and adults than are diagnosed.

"I'm really proud of Patrick for everything he accomplished and everything he's done. Hopefully, he will take this with him, as the teen years are coming up. I'm proud of our daughter for supporting him," Holly Esquibel said.

Patrick Esquibel II had some advice for other youth diagnosed with the illness: "It's nothing to be ashamed about. It can be hectic, but you can get through it. You're special. God gave you this because he knew you could handle it."

For more information on the support group or juvenile diabetes, residents may call the Esquibels at 870-8300.

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