HELENA — The worst thing about having type 1 diabetes, William Matz says, is missing out on the birthday treats his classmates bring to school. The 9-year-old Four Georgians fourth-grader can handle the four finger pricks a day to test his blood sugar and four insulin shots a day. After eight years of those daily routines, William says he’s used to it. It’s the other types of disruptions to his day that make him wish he didn’t have diabetes.
“A couple of times I’ve missed most of lunch because my numbers are low,” William said. “Sometimes I miss recess. If I don’t get an extra snack during sports I might get sick.”
He’s even had to leave his classroom in the middle of a test to visit the nurse’s office for his insulin shot, something he really didn’t want to do.
“It’s really hard,” William said about having diabetes.
William will share what life with type 1 diabetes is like with members of Congress next week when he and his parents, Brian and Heidi, travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Children’s Congress. William is one of about 150 kids from around the United States between the ages of 4 and 17 who will visit with lawmakers July 8 through 10 to try to convince them to continue funding for diabetes research. JDRF Children’s Congress has been convening every other year since 1999.
William and his 150 traveling companions were chosen from about 1,500 applicants. As part of the application process, William had to write an essay about why he wants a cure for diabetes to be discovered.
“A cure for diabetes is important to me because I would get to be normal and do things like other kids,” William wrote in his application. “I would get to eat foods with sugar in them a little bit more. I would not have to go see the doctor as often as I do now. I also want other kids not to be sick with diabetes like me. I think money for finding a cure for diabetes will help my pancreas get fixed.”
For a 9-year-old, William knows a lot about diabetes. Although he doesn’t yet administer his own shots, he does know how to test his sugar levels and how to draw the insulin into a syringe. William is also a champion fundraiser for JDRF; he has three trophies for participating in the Walk to Cure Diabetes. This year he raised more than $2,200 in donations.
William was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes five days before his first birthday. According to his dad, Brian, his symptoms were frequent urination and constant dehydration.
“We thought he was sick from something else,” Brian said.
So it was a shock when the diagnosis came back as diabetes.
“We’d had this perfect, healthy baby,” said William’s mother, Heidi, “then we were told he had a lifelong disease.”
William has a brother and two sisters, all younger than him and none of whom have diabetes. The family makes lifestyle choices to accommodate William’s health needs. Heidi prepares most meals from scratch and prepares special sugar-free desserts.
“Two days ago my mom maid coffee cake,” William said excitedly.
And for William’s birthday, which was in May, Heidi made treats he could share with his entire class — sugar-free popsicles.