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Walnut Elementary celebrates diabetic students during awareness day
Diabetes 3
Six students who have been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes were praised during Walnut Elementary Schools Diabetes Awareness Day Monday, an event which also gave them an opportunity to educate their peers about the disease. PICTURED TOP, LEFT TO RIGHT: Sixth grader Anastasia Heaberlin, sixth grader Jasmeet Kaur and fifth grader Lucas Arrizon; BOTTOM: Fourth grader Peyton Bruce, third grader Dustin Childres and kindergartener Jenner Erlenbusch. - photo by Photo Contributed

Peyton Bruce didn’t have a typical sixth birthday.


Rather than celebrating with cake and presents, the six-year-old spent her birthday bouncing from her doctor's office to a Modesto emergency room and ultimately a hospital in Santa Clara. With a blood sugar level exceeding 900, Peyton and her parents would later learn that the she had Type 1 Diabetes.


“She was exhibiting many of the signs right before her sixth birthday,” said her mother Sarah Bruce. “She was very lethargic, she lost quite a bit of weight, she was very thirsty, very irritable for several weeks and it progressively got worse and worse.


“I’m very thankful that we went in when we did because the doctors told us she probably wouldn’t have made it through the night if we waited another day,” continued Bruce.


According to the American Diabetes Association, Type 1 Diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults when the body does not produce insulin, a hormone the body needs to get glucose — which is used for energy — from the bloodstream into the cells of the body.


Now three years later as a fourth grader at Walnut Elementary School, Peyton and five other students who have been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes were honored during the school’s second Diabetes Awareness Day as part of World Diabetes Awareness Day on Monday and National Diabetes Awareness Month throughout November. Other students with Type 1 Diabetes at Walnut are kindergartener Jenner Erlenbusch, third grader Dustin Childres, fifth grader Lucas Arrizon, and sixth graders Anastasia Heaberlin and Jasmeet Kaur.


“We have several students here who do have Type 1 Diabetes and we just want to show them our support,” said health tech Rhonda Rose. “We are hoping every year we can make it bigger and better.”


Students at Walnut dressed in blue and kicked off the morning with a question-and-answer session where the general student population got to ask questions about Type 1 Diabetes. Students with diabetes were able to explain to their classmates that Type 1 Diabetes is not contagious, nor is it something that they can get from eating too much candy. They got the opportunity to educate their peers on how often they need to test their blood sugar, different procedures they have to go through and insulin pumps.


“They were just normalizing it for other kids,” said Bruce. “These kids go through a lot 24/7. There is never a day off for them, so to have a day where they can feel like heroes is important.”


Students also received a blue bracelet that said “Create a World Without T1D,” which were purchased by the school’s parent-teacher organization and a flyer to take home to their parents that detailed the different symptoms and signs of Type 1 Diabetes.


“We were just bringing awareness to the symptoms and signs because myself and the other moms feel like awareness is the key as far as preventing children from getting very sick,” said Bruce.