Lincoln’s Colton advocates for diabetes research in Washington, D.C.

Lincoln’s Colton advocates for diabetes research in Washington, D.C.

LINCOLN – Twelve-year-old Jackson Colton, of Lincoln, joined more than 160 other children in Washington, D.C. this week to ask Congress for funding to support diabetes research.

Colton was selected to represent Rhode Island and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation New England chapter as a delegate of the 2019 Children’s Congress, which took place July 8-10. The delegates lobbied members of Congress to remind them of the vital need to support Type 1 diabetes research that can help reduce the burden of the disease and ultimately find a cure.

Finding a cure has been on Colton’s mind since he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 6.

“My mommy and daddy are going to raise a lot of money for the JDRF so that no other kids will have to have Type 1 diabetes,” he remembers telling his school nurse at the time.

Leading up to his diagnosis in 2013, Colton had been experiencing excessive thirst and frequent urination causing both him and his parents to lose sleep. When his father Brian searched the symptoms on Google, he said the first result was Type 1 diabetes.

Colton can still remember the anxiety he felt the day of his diagnosis, when the doctor pulled his parents aside and quietly instructed them to bring him to the hospital.

Every year since then, he and his family mark his “dia-versary” (diagnosis) on Aug. 27. On that day, his parents monitor his levels so that Colton can “pretend” he doesn’t have diabetes, which often means indulging in a giant milkshake.

Thanks to advances in technology, Colton’s disease management has been made a bit easier over the years, progressing from daily finger pricks and insulin injections to using the Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitoring system.

“The Dexcom reads my blood glucose levels so I don’t have to test as often, if at all,” Colton explained. Before, he had to prick his finger multiple times daily to calibrate the system. The Dexcom G6 is 100 percent calibrated out of the box.

Colton is grateful for any technological advances, especially those that allow him to maximize his time on the basketball court. Now, while he’s playing basketball, his parents can read his levels from a smart watch courtside and make the necessary adjustments without benching Colton.

“I can read the number from the sideline, poke him and say, drink some Gatorade,” Brian said. “Or to drink the entire bottle,” Colton added.

Colton talks excitedly about the prospects of other advancements in diabetes management technology, from beta cell regeneration or encapsulation to immunotherapy.

Since his diagnosis, his family has raised more than $35,000 toward research and finding a cure.

Now, Colton said he’s “ready to take my passion to D.C. because there are more and more people being diagnosed with this horrible disease every single day, and they need awareness and support from our leaders in Congress.”

Ranging in age from 4 to 17 and representing all 50 states, the delegates participated in a range of activities on the Hill, including a congressional committee hearing to share personal testimonies that highlight the challenges of living with Type 1 diabetes and the need for funding projects such as the Special Diabetes Program, which provides $150 million annually for Type 1 diabetes research at the National Institutes of Health.

The funding was renewed last February and is set to expire on Sept. 30. While the funding is typically renewed every two years, the Children’s Congress will advocate for a five-year renewal.