3 generations of Clarks Grove family team up to raise money for juvenile diabetes research

Published 9:09 am Saturday, February 14, 2009

Three generations of a Clarks Grove family teamed up to do what they can to help find a cure for juvenile diabetes.

The Hansen family participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s 2009 Walk to Cure Diabetes at the Mall of America on Jan. 24. Three-year-old Chet Hansen, his dad, Chris, and his grandpa, Bruce, took part in the walk as part of the team, “Chet’s Chuggers.” They wore green shirts with the team name and a tractor imprinted on them.

Cari Hansen, Chet’s mother, said she learned about the walk after the family had taken Chet to Rochester for a checkup.

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“I thought we’d had enough diabetes in the family that we could try to help raise money for a cure,” Cari said.

The family has raised nearly $5,000, and has until Feb. 24 to turn in the money they have raised. Cari said she’d like to bring the total to $5,000. When they signed up for the walk, she’d originally hoped to raise $1,000, but found people to be very supportive.

Chris said he was surprised at how many people the walk drew. There were 18,000 participants, and as of that day, $1 million had been raised.

Bruce Hansen has lived with his diabetes for 48 years and his son for 24 1/2 years. Chris had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, commonly known as juvenile diabetes, at age 14 months. Chet was diagnosed a year ago, at 23 months.

Cari said she noticed Chet was incredibly thirsty and was soaking his diapers shortly after drinking something.

“He would have drank all day if I’d let him,” Cari said.

Chris is the one who put the clues together, and tested his son’s glucose level, only to find it incredibly high. He and his family went to the emergency room, and were sent to Rochester.

“We caught it so early he didn’t get sick and he didn’t lose weight,” Chris said.

Now, Chet’s life revolves around his glucose test. He gets tested right away in the morning and gets an insulin shot. He has breakfast at 8 a.m. At 10 a.m. he has a snack. At noon, his glucose level is checked again and then he has lunch. At 3 p.m., he’s checked, then has a snack. At 5:30 p.m., he’s checked again, then has his insulin shot and supper. At 8 p.m., there’s another check and a snack. If the level was high at 8 p.m., Chris or Cari will check him again at 2 a.m.

“He gets checked a minimum of five times a day,” Cari said. “We measure all his meals and count the starch, fruit, vegetables and milk.”

Chris said technology has come a long way since he was a kid. When he checked his glucose level as a kid, he’d have to put a drop of blood on a strip and match the color according to a chart.

“It wasn’t very accurate,” he said. “Now in five seconds I can get an exact digital reading and it doesn’t take as much blood, either.”

Chet is on the diabetes management program Chris was as a kid. “When he’s 19 or 20, he’ll likely switch to something more controllable,” Chris said. “Now I’m on a pump, and I give myself a shot according to what I eat.”

Chet is very good about getting his glucose levels checked, but he’s not crazy about getting his shots, his parents said.

While they’ve been told juvenile diabetes is not hereditary, Cari said the family must be genetically predisposed to it. Bruce Hansen’s grandfather also had it, as does Chris’ sister, Kari.

The couple hopes their younger son, Owen, will not have it.

Cari made a video to tell Chet’s story. It tells about the day that changed his life, Feb. 4, 2008. It tells how many kids are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes each year and how many finger pokes he gets in a year and how many shots he has every year.

“Insulin is a not a cure. It’s my life support,” the video states.

Anyone who wants to view the video can go to www.YouTube.com and type in Chet’s Chuggers.

Anyone who would like to find out how to the donate to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation can e-mail Cari Hansen at carinchole@gmail.com.