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Meet 7-year-old Julian. He loves soccer, birthday parties and playing with his friends. He doesn’t like type 1 diabetes (T1D). This year, Julian and his family are fronting JDRF’s Christmas Giving Appeal. Learn a little more about the family below. 

At 22-months-old, Julian was your typical boisterous and happy little boy. Then his mum and dad, Damian, saw his light dim. “He was very energetic then he wasn’t,” Angela remembers. “We thought he maybe had a cold or flu. But it didn’t go away. He was looking like a zombie. Then one day he couldn’t even walk to the couch. When we got him to the hospital, he was struggling to breathe.”

Learning he actually had T1D and could have died, his parents were shocked. Angela was 20 weeks pregnant at the time, which made the situation even more of a roller coaster ride emotionally. They were managing with a toddler and a newborn while still trying to get a handle on their new life with T1D. Julian would run away screaming whenever he needed an injection or a finger prick.

“It (Julian’s diagnosis) was traumatic for all of us,” says Angela. “But the hardest thing about Julian having type 1 is that it doesn’t go away, there’s no break. We try to just make it part of our lives and not BE our lives. But it’s just there all the time.”

With a new Continuous Glucose Monitor, there were fewer scary needles. But in his first year of school, the alarms going off in class made Julian feel different. He hated that.

“Some days, it just gets to him,” says his mum, Angela. “Like when he is having a hypo and has to sit out of sport or a party. His fingers are so calloused from testing his blood. He says, ‘I don’t want to have diabetes.’ ”

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That’s why, as soon as Julian was diagnosed, Angela wanted to stand up against T1D. She said ‘yes’ in hospital when she was invited to be part of a special T1D study with her unborn baby. As the family has grown – first with Felicity, then Gabriel, and now baby Elliott – each of Julian’s younger siblings have enrolled in the study.

Environmental Determinants of Autoimmunity (ENDIA) is an example of the research that JDRF funds. The hope is to find anything that could be triggering islet autoimmunity and in turn T1D, in increasing numbers of Australian kids.

In a world-first, researchers are gathering information from over 1,400 babies across Australia who have an immediate family member with T1D, starting from in utero. During their first years of life, everything in the babies’ environment that could cause or protect against T1D is tracked.

ENDIA’s principal investigator Dr Jenny Couper says its main goal is prevention. But there’s a chance of improved treatments or a cure coming to light along the way.
“Scientists might be able to work out how to stop or slow the process before it’s happened. Understanding how to switch off the immune process could also help people with type 1 already. Because if you know HOW something is actually causing a problem, you’re better able to find a therapy to fix it.”

Knowing JDRF will keep championing significant research such as the ENDIA study reassures families like Julian’s. It gives hope they cling to during tough times. In particular, the future can look a little brighter.

“The future is what I worry about for Julian, because if people’s sugar levels aren’t controlled, it can cause all sorts of dramas later,” says Angela. “If we want people with type 1 to have a better future, it’s very important to help JDRF fight T1D so it can be managed better or prevented or cured.”

This year Julian was so proud to go with his dad to JDRF’s Kids in the House advocacy day in Canberra. he drew a picture to take along to his visit with his local Member of Parliament. We think it says it all.

Is your Christmas wish the same as Julian’s and Angela’s – to improve life with T1D and even stop it for good?

Please shine light on a cure by giving towards vital research.

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