Like other children who participated in the Berrie Center’s 2014 Summer Fun Program, a week-long program that takes children with type 1 diabetes (T1D) on outings to New York City landmarks, Joanna Seung, a soon-to-be 4th grader with T1D, loves to be with her friends, play sports and explore museums. What separated Joanna from the other kids were the 14 time zones she traveled to participate in the program. Joanna lives in Seoul, Korea and comes to the Berrie Center (four times a year) for treatment for her recently diagnosed T1D.
When Joanna was diagnosed with T1D in February of 2014 her mother Ines Hur knew little, if anything, about diabetes, so she researched the illness on the Internet and talked to friends and family, including a sister who is a doctor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York. “In Korea, T1D is very rare, and it is challenging to find anyone with any T1D expertise,” said Ines, whose research led her to the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center and Dr. Mary Pat Gallagher, the head of the children’s diabetes program at the Berrie Center, one of the largest pediatric T1D programs in the country.
For optimal medical care and diabetes management, support, resources, education and even scientists who are looking for a cure, there was nothing like the Berrie Center, maybe in the world, Ines discovered. “Dr. Gallagher and her team are working at the very highest level in their field,” she concluded. By March of this year, Joanna became one of a growing number of patients with T1D who come the distance to be treated at the Berrie Center.
So far, her treatment couldn’t be going any better. “She is doing beautifully!” said Dr. Gallagher about Joanna’s first seven months with T1D. “She is using an insulin pump and glucose monitor. She is very attentive to counting her carbohydrates and checking her blood sugar levels. We get to review her patterns through email to help her family identify patterns. We are so happy we can help.”
Joanna’s first visit to the Berrie Center was so successful, they decided to schedule Joanna’s second visit to coincide with the Berrie Center’s Summer Fun Program in early July. “Mostly we wanted to let her see and let her know that she is not the only one who has T1D,” said Ines.“ This is very hard to show her in Seoul.”
T1D is extremely rare in Korea, explained Joanna, an articulate 9-year-old who speaks English as a second language: “Kids with insulin pumps are very unusual in Korea. People do not know how to treat me.” When asked if she knew other children with diabetes, Joanna said, “Until coming to the Berrie Center, I had not seen or talked to other kids with diabetes. Because of that, diabetes was a completely new experience for me.”
The week-long Berrie Center Summer Fun program was a huge hit for Joanna, who already knows she would like to come back next year to participate. “My favorite part was the last day when we went to a bowling alley called Lucky Strike,” she said upon her return back home to Seoul. “Bowling is also popular here, but I find it more kid friendly in the U.S. I also enjoyed having chicken nuggets and pizza!”
No one is happier about Joanna’s success this summer than her mom. “She has been brighter than ever after meeting everyone,” said Ines. “I truly think it opened her eyes and her mind. She has been able to imagine for the first time how beautiful life can be with diabetes.”