Hope everyone's holidays have been great so far, and for those giving and receiving gifts, we hope you got everything you were looking forward to!
We're enjoying family time on our respective ends in California and Indiana, but wanted to also share a little of the holiday cheer that we've had the good fortune to help spread online this year through the Aware-lidays Giveaway series we kicked off in November.
Today, we're happy to present some stories from those who came away as winners, and a little about how they or their loved ones enjoyed the prizes -- especially those who got them as holiday gifts, helping make it an even more special season.
Jerry the Bear Giveaway Winner: "Team Lightening Landon," near Los Angeles, CA
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About two dozen comments came in from family and friends of Landon, who is 3 years old and was diagnosed just over a month ago, right before Thanksgiving. His parents, Destinie and Kyle Herndon, also have a 2-year-old daughter named Kaylie and they own a water damage restoration company in their California town. Here's what his mother Destinie has to say:
"Our son Landon is the most kind-hearted child in the world. He was diagnosed on Nov. 19, 2013, and was in DKA and rushed to Children's Hospital, where they brought him down to normal blood sugar levels.
"After leaving the hospital I was in search of something to help my son feel as though he was not alone. Not knowing anybody else with type 1 diabetes, it was very difficult. That was until I came across this Jerry the Bear contest. I was so excited to find such an amazing toy that could not only help my son learn about type 1 diabetes but to also make him feel as though he was not alone. I was so grateful and amazed to see how many people showed so much support for my son and entered for him to win Jerry! We anxiously waited to hear the news if we won or not. When the news finally came in that 'Team Lightning Landon' won the bear, I don't think there was a single person who wasn't jumping for joy, my son especially. He spent every day watching Jerry the Bear videos on YouTube until he received Jerry. He has a desire to learn about his diabetes. He amazes us with the things he picks up on and says, 'Am I low?' 'Do these have a lot of carbs in them?' 'Do I need a correction?' He has even begun learning to test his own blood sugar. With the help of Jerry, my son will not only find comfort, but he will also learn more about overcoming his disease and how to care for himself while caring for Jerry. I'm forever grateful for the Jerry the Bear team and all the effort they have put forward not only for my son but every child with type 1 diabetes.
"Landon puts everyone before himself every single day. He has done amazing with his type one diabetes. He plays t-ball and wants to be a firefighter. As he says 'type 1 diabetes won't stop me.' We are a strong family and we believe God chose Landon for this so we could make a difference in the world with type 1 diabetes. We are already planning on walks and other things to raise awareness. My son tells us he will help another child with type 1 diabetes not be afraid and be brave like him. He tells his sister she will be okay -- he will help her if she has diabetes as well. God picked the strongest bravest kid for a reason."
*Sigh* And why the "Lightening Landon" name? Destinie says this about her son: his two favorite movies are Toy Story and Cars. He likes to tell his mom he can fly like Buzz Lightyear and is faster than Lightning McQueen. So she began calling him Lightning Landon just a week before his diagnosis.
"He would ride his bike with buzz wings on. Seriously, the cutest. While we were in the hospital it became his superhero name. He loves it, and goes by Lightning Landon now. He has the cape and all. We all formed a team in support of him everyday -- Team Lightning Landon has been amazing with the daily support and prayers. We wouldn't be able to do it without our team behind us every day. So thankful for each and every one of them!"
Landon's grandma Cyndee (who had the winning blog comment) says this, too, about receiving Jerry the Bear:
"Landon was ecstatic to see Jerry walk through the door. They took lots of pictures and a few videos. My grandson prepared Jerry's dinner (to have the same as him), counted his carbs AND gave him his insulin shot -- I was amazed! He's only 3 years old and was teaching us how to use Jerry. I can really see how Jerry is going to be a great support system for my grandson. The first thing he said was, 'he has diabetes like me'... Jerry is a great tool already to teach about the disease. I believe Jerry said he was shaky and Landon said, just like me. Landon related a few of Jerry's high and low symptoms, which I believe will help him identify his own symptoms and better know his body and diabetes. We hope you have a Merry Christmas -- Team Lightening Landon sure did!"
Sugar Medical Bags Giveaway Winner: Melissa Matarrazo in Florida
"I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was 19 years old -- feeling tired and un-energetic all the time. Turned out I didn't have mono, I had diabetes. In the 18 years since then, I have transitioned from oral meds only to pen-delivered insulin to the Omnipod pump and DexCom G4 CGM (when my insurance company is playing nice). Along the way, I have dealt with an eating disorder, depression, and some tough learning about myself.
"Professionally, I am a doctoral candidate at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, where I am completing a dissertation focused on the evaluation of school principals and superintendents. I have worked as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, district-level leader, and now consultant and coach to educational leaders.
"My bag has made me a way neater and more organized diabetic. Instead of carrying my Omnipod supplies thrown together in a disorderly former make-up bag, I now can smoothly pull out my new bag, take my BG reading, and program my bolus in a discreet way. Many, many thanks!"
Ginger Vieria's Sweat-Betes Coaching and Book Package Winner: Rebecca B. Jervey in Pennsylvania
"On September 3, 1998, which was just before my 10th grade year in high school, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. That summer I'd worked as a counselor at summer camp and had an incredible summer, but as the time passed I realized I was drinking more and more liquids and they were pretty much just running straight through my body. When I asked my parents about this they were convinced that it was just dehydration and they bought me a couple of gallons of water each week to take to camp with me. The week after camp, I was fitted for my high school marching band uniform and the fitting crew were surprised at how much weight I had lost and had to find a new uniform for me as last year's uniform was far too big. My family then left for the 8-hour drive to Toronto for the end of our summer vacation. We ended up cutting the trip short and driving back early, as my parents realized that I really was hopelessly dehydrated and none of my liquid intake was doing me any good.
"So at the age of 15, I was diagnosed with diabetes. The first few months were a blur as I relearned how to use my body, how to pay attention to food, and how to compensate for the fact that my pancreas no longer worked. I remember my doctor though, the week I was diagnosed, commenting on how she wouldn't wish this on anyone but she knew I could handle it because I'd just treat it as another science experiment. She was right. I have spent the last 15 years of my life running experiments on how soon I should inject insulin before eating different types of food, how many carbs are needed to combat different types of lows, and how various types of exercise affect my blood sugars.
"With my already-scientific take on diabetes management, I was thrilled to find that I had won the books and coaching giveaway from Ginger Vieira. Any book titled 'Your Diabetes Science Experiment' was clearly written with the same type of diabetes outlook as I have. In paging through Ginger's books, I found them easy to read and informative. She also treats each case study as just that, a case study. It analyzes how the body works scientifically while still admitting that every person is different and our results vary. I was also impressed by Ginger's flexibility on the coaching sessions. I won the giveaway just as the holiday season started, about a week before Thanksgiving, and she was happy to offer to put the coaching off until after the New Year when I will have more time. Her flexibility and great insight in the books has made this an ideal giveaway experience!"
Extend Nutrition Snack Basket Winner: Heidi Shell in Maryland
"I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 17, in December 1998. Shortly after that, I had to have cataract surgeries (as the extremely high glucose had wreaked havoc on the lenses of my eyes). I have had no other diabetes complications since then -- and trying to keep it so. In 2001, I started on an insulin pump and am currently using a Tandem t:slim and Dexcom G4 CGM to manage my diabetes. I enjoy using all forms of social media to connect with my (new and old) DOC friends, including my blog, The D-Log Cabin!
"I've wanted to try the Extend products, as I'm definitely a 'try before you buy something' kind of person, and finding yummy snacks that don't spike your blood glucose to the moon can be a challenge. I'm looking forward to trying these products, and I love that they've got such a variety of flavors, and are gluten free; although I do not have celiac, many people with diabetes do have it, and it makes snack finding very hard. Thank you, DiabetesMine & Extend Nutrition, for a great giveaway!"
Level Foods Bundle Winner: Mike Ratrie in Florida
"My type 1 diabetes diagnosis was typical of many others -- flu, followed some time later by weight loss, unquenchable thirst and lots of time in the bathroom. DKA was with me while I dropped 30 pounds and I didn't even know it! So in September 1973, I was started on one NPH shot a day. I tested with Tes-Tape, Clini-Stix and the test tube stuff. I carried those massive BD glucose bricks with me. That lasted for nearly 25 years before I went to the MDI (multiple daily injections) with basal/bolus protocol around 1997 (btw, no A1C tests, either). I also started using my first meter at the same time.
"With MDI and increased testing, my ability to manage my T1D became noticeably better. My first A1C was below 8, but a long way from the ADA's recommended 7.0! Not long after I started MDI, my dad sent me a Wall Street Journal article about insulin pumping. I initially dismissed the idea, but I was also becoming unhappy with being 'forced' to eat when my NPH basal insulin was active. Then, on a cold December night, I went into insulin shock at 2am after testing with a 25 mg/dl. When I woke up in the hospital, I said to my endo: let's go to the pump.
"Fortunately, I have had few complications. I have a little neuropathy in my feet and hands. My transition to the pump was extremely smooth. Like most other PWDs, a large part of my day is taken up with managing all the numbers, meters, test strips, batteries, prescriptions and more. I really appreciate the flexibility that pumping has brought into my life. Now some 14 years since going on the pump, I am eagerly waiting for my first CGM, a Dexcom G4, to arrive any day and looking forward to a new chapter in my T1D life.
"Non-diabetes stuff... Is there really any such thing? If there were, the biggest unconventional thing I have done was to go sailing. I'm not talking about sailing for a day, a week or a month, but a completely different way of living. From 2006 to 2010, I sailed everywhere from 'Down East' Maine to Aruba in the Caribbean. Essentially off-grid for the majority of the time, rarely docked in a marina, with my boat swinging at anchor in some gorgeous settings.
"What about the DOC? I think the DOC offers PWDs immediate and powerful connections. Don't get me wrong. I have a wonderful support team of family and friends, but with the DOC, I don't have to explain how diabetes works BEFORE I can talk about what's bugging me."
Editor's Note: Mike decided to donate his Level Foods Bundle to his favorite charity, Children With Diabetes, which decided the best use would be to have it donated and for use at the Friends For Life conference in July 2014, at the Sports Central area in case any kids or adults with diabetes go low!
Why did I ask to have this gift donated? It's simple — pay it forward!
And Level Foods founder and CEO Ethan Lewis, a fellow type 1 himself, says this about Mike's decision to donate his prize:
"When I heard Mike's idea to donate his prize package that he won, and give it to one of the best diabetes events (Children With Diabetes), I was blown away. The fact that one person with diabetes was willing to share his prize with kids living with type 1 was a random act of diabetes-kindness. This type of generosity proves that we have an exciting D-future ahead of us. After all — together, we are stronger."
We're thrilled to hear the great feedback about the giveaway goodies, and especially about the generosity everyone's shown this holiday season... Certainly warms the heart!
Thanks to our winners for sharing this holiday cheer, and we can't wait for 2014 -- bringing in a whole new lineup of seasons and PWDs to feature and share with!