Pediatric Diabetes Care Team Changes Kids' Lives
Lorenzo Bullock was only 8 years old in 2010 when he started showing symptoms of diabetes, including tiredness, unquenchable thirst and frequent urination. The problems slowly escalated until one night Lorenzo’s mother Jozzette Bullock rushed him to California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), where the staff discovered he had dangerously high blood sugar levels.
Lorenzo was obese at the time, standing four-feet-seven and weighing 150 pounds. Suruchi Bhatia, M.D., director of the Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes Division, determined that Lorenzo had type 2 diabetes, requiring a weeklong hospitalization in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
Lorenzo joins more than 200,000 children in the U.S. under age 20 who suffer from diabetes—a number that experts believe is increasing 5 percent a year. Particularly troubling is that type 2 diabetes, historically seen mostly in patients over age 40, has become increasingly prevalent among young people.
Education Helps Families Manage Diabetes
If left unchecked, diabetes can cause dehydration, fatigue, and heart disease, and can damage vital organs, nerves and blood vessels in the eyes.
“When I found out Lorenzo had diabetes, the life was taken out of me,” says Jozzette. “I was worried that he might go blind or lose limbs, but the doctors at CPMC reassured me that diabetes could be managed with the right diet and exercise.” Many studies have shown that children who control their diabetes are 50 to 75 percent less likely to have complications.
That’s why CPMC’s Pediatric Diabetes Care Team uses a multidisciplinary, family-centered approach to treat and educate children with diabetes, not only at CPMC in San Francisco but also at clinics in Greenbrae, Oakland, Novato and Orinda.
Once hydration and insulin therapy returned Lorenzo to a safe glucose level, Dr. Bhatia and her team of nurses, dieticians and diabetes educators worked with the Bullocks so that the family could care for Lorenzo at home. They learned how to count calories, test his blood, administer insulin shots, create a nutritional plan and implement an exercise regimen. The team’s social workers also gave the Bullocks much-needed emotional support.
“Kids often don’t understand why it’s important to eat right, exercise or track their blood sugars,” explains Dr. Bhatia, “so education and ongoing support for the entire family are crucial.”
“You cannot only look at the medical piece. You also have to look at the life piece,” adds certified diabetes educator Kimberly Higgins, R.N., CDE.
A New Life
Lorenzo started to limit his portions and eat fewer carbs. Jozzette changed the way she cooked, frying less and baking more. “It inspired all of us to eat better,” says Tony Mares, Lorenzo’s grandfather. With that support, Lorenzo has made a complete turnaround. Now that he’s 11, the fifth-grader checks his own blood sugar and administers his own insulin shots. When his classmates eat sweets, he knows to say no.
In addition to playing soccer, baseball and football, Lorenzo also walks, hikes, and rides his off-road motorcycle and dirt bike, and still manages to get A’s and B’s in school. “Just because a child has diabetes doesn’t mean he can’t be successful. Lorenzo is a responsible, mature young man,” says Tony, beaming. “He’s taken it upon himself to know his disease, and he’s handled it well.”
All that healthy living has led Lorenzo to a 35-pound weight loss and a normal body mass index (BMI). He now stands four-feeteleven and weighs only 113 pounds. “He’s our star,” Dr. Bhatia says. “It’s all the more remarkable because he’s a child doing all these adult things.”
“It’s hard to get kids to follow any type of weight program. The Bullocks have done a terrific job,” adds registered dietician Lonnie Wong, R.D., CNSC.
A Good Team on Your Side
According to the Bullocks, much of the credit goes to the CPMC Pediatric Diabetes Care Team, which was recently recognized and accredited by the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
“Dr. Bhatia and her staff have kept me on track,” says Lorenzo. “When I first got sick, I told my family that I wanted to be like all the other kids, and now I feel like I am—I just happen to have diabetes.”
“The team is excellent,” Jozette insists. “Whenever I call them, they’re always there. They treat us like family, not like we’re just another case. They know and care about Lorenzo. I feel fortunate that they were there when we needed them and that they will continue to help our family.”
Many of these vital services are made possible through generous gifts from people of the Bay Area community. If you wish to support the Pediatric Diabetes Program, please contact CPMC Foundation (Web: cpmcf.org and Tel: 415-600-4400).
For pediatric diabetes care and consultation, call 415-600-0770.
5 Healthy Living Tips for Avoiding Childhood Obesity and Diabetes
- Exercise: The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that children participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week.
- Reduce Screen Time (both television and media usage): The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 1-2 hours a day for children over 2 and no television viewing for children under 2. For one hour of screen time, children should exercise equivalent time.
- Choose Healthy Snacks: Snacks with fruit or vegetables and protein are ideal. Peel a banana and dip it in yogurt; make snack kabobs with cubes of low fat cheese and grapes on pretzel sticks; spread peanut butter on apple slices.
- Avoid Oversize Portions: Use a medium-size plate no larger than 10 inches wide. Your meal should contain 50% fruit and vegetables, 25% lean meat or protein, and 25% whole grain.
- Drink Smart: Enjoy water instead of sugary drinks. Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk. Rather than juice, eat whole fruit.