Eight-year-old Ethen is all about the facts. He is quick to say, “I have diabetes and basically I have to check my glucose monitor every hour. I have to change my pump every 3 days and I have to see the doctor every 3 months.” He can even explain to you what diabetes is and how his pancreas does not function normally.

At the age of 4, Ethen was diagnosed with type I diabetes when the family was living in North Carolina. “I knew what was happening when he started drinking everything in the house. My daughter was also diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when she was 9. It is so hard and hurts to the core to watch your child go through this because he cannot understand why this is happening to him,” says Elgin, Ethen’s dad.

“Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system rather than focusing on germs, bacteria or other invaders that make you sick, instead starts attacking parts of the body,” says Paula Newton, MD, of pediatric endocrinology and Ethen’s doctor. “When your immune system attacks your pancreas, you lose the ability to make insulin and you get type I diabetes,”

“The key to diabetes is to count carbohydrates, take insulin and most importantly have a strong extended support system. I believe that children with type I diabetes can lead happy and healthy lives.  This is why I became a pediatric endocrinologist," adds Dr. Newton.

Finding the Best Care . . . and a Cure

“When we moved to Prince George’s County, I started looking for a doctor for Ethen. I called some offices near us which could not see him for more than 6 months,” explains Ethen’s mom, LaDonni. “Then I contacted the University of Maryland and quickly got an appointment the next week. And ever since then it has been nothing but great things from Dr. Newton and Nurse Sara.”

LaDonni also points out that going to see Dr. Newton and Nurse Sara is the only time Ethen gets excited about a doctor’s appointment. “They have made it a point to know Ethen and it has been spectacular. The hour drive to Baltimore is no problem and well worth it for the great care we get.”

Part of the reason Ethen is so knowledgeable about his diabetes is because his parents never hide any details from him. They have always been straightforward about what is going on.  Also, he listens closely during his frequent doctor’s appointments so he understands what is happening. His parents want to be sure that he can care for himself when he gets older. But that shouldn’t be too hard for him because Ethen is planning on going to medical school. His dream is to become a surgeon, but he gets a little squeamish when thinking about cutting open a body. So, he may become an endocrinologist so he can help others with diabetes.

“His story is still being written. I think there is a cure out there,” says Elgin. “If so, Ethen will be the one to find it.

Are you looking for a pediatric specialist? Call the UM Children’s Hospital at 410-328-5887.