Warnsley set to talk diabetes with U.S. Congress

By JAMES PHILLIPS,

For 11-year-old Andrew Warnsley and his mother Allison of Morton, August 2016 changed their lives when Andrew was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at the age of eight.

The shock of the diagnosis and initial fear of what the future held was challenging, but this brave mother and son team weathered those tough times and have been resilient in meeting this disease head on and fighting back. On July 8-10 Andrew and his mother will be traveling to Washington D.C. where Andrew will be one of two representatives from Mississippi discussing children’s diabetes with members of the United States Congress. 

As part of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s 2019 Children’s Congress Andrew will have the opportunity to share his story with some of the most influential leaders in America. Every two years the JDRF sends approximately 160 children living with T1D to Washington to meet face-to-face with the top decision makers in the U.S. government. This is a chance of a lifetime to help members of Congress understand what the life of children with T1D is like and why continued research is so vital in the battle against this disease.

Warnsley’s mother first learned of the JDRF Children’s Congress when attending a diabetes fundraiser. She said that she thought it would be a great opportunity, but wasn’t sure if Andrew would be interested in participating. To her surprise he was very interested and tackled the application process with everything he had.

“I first heard about the Children’s Congress at a One Walk fundraiser and I thought this could be a great opportunity for Andrew to get the chance to visit Washington and tell his own story,” Allison said. “When I first told him about the Children’s Congress I was truly surprised because he immediately said that he wanted to apply. He worked really hard on the application and the essay and really spent time telling his story in the hopes that he would be chosen as one of the children from Mississippi.”

Warnsley had to apply through Mississippi’s former U.S. Representative Greg Harper’s office which entailed writing and essay describing his story and living his daily life with T1D. After an application process two children from Mississippi were selected to represent the state at the biannual event. “We got the call in February telling us that Andrew was one of the two children selected from Mississippi,” Allison recalled. “They told us that Andrew and a young girl from Natchez would be the two Mississippi representatives at the 2019 Children’s Congress in July.”

Andrew said that when his mother first told him he was a little nervous, but then he started thinking about all the things to do in Washington. “The first time they notified us that I was picked I was actually scared,” Andrew said. “This will be my first time to ever fly so that kind of scared me at first. Then I started thinking about going to the White House and getting to tell the people in Congress about my life so I started to get excited.”

The JDRF website explains that this program was inspired by a boy from Massachusetts named Tommy Solo. At the age of nine he asked his mother. “Why can’t kids go to Washington and tell their representatives about what it is like to have T1D, and let them know that we want scientists to find a cure?” As a result of this one question, in 1999, the first ever JDRF Children’s Congress took place in Washington D.C.

This disease has no doubt altered both Andrew’s and his mother’s life, but they both made the decision early on that this would not be the defining factor for this happy and well-spoken 11-year-old. When Andrew was first diagnosed in 2016, he spent over a week in Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson. When he first arrived at the hospital his sugar level was dangerously high and the medical team spent the next week bringing down his blood-sugar, educating Andrew and Allison on the disease and teaching them the daily regiment to keep his diabetes under control.  

The Warnsley’s struggled with Andrew’s diabetes the first couple of years, since they have learned to keep his sugar levels at a normal rate through schedules, dieting and with the assistance with his electronic blood sugar monitor and insulin pump. “I have to say that the first few years were really a struggle,” Allison said. “We did not have the new equipment we have now and we were still learning and somewhat sacred. Now we have learned to keep a constant watch on his levels mainly because of the arm monitor and pump.”

Andrew has a remote-controlled blood sugar monitor attached to the back of his upper-arm, and a remote control insulin pump attached to his abdomen. These two tools have been vitally important to keeping his blood sugar levels close to normal as well as allowing him to lead the normal life of a child. “He doesn’t get to fully enjoy his childhood like other kids his age, but he is able to enjoy himself as much as possible,” Allison said.

Andrew currently attends Obama Magnet School in Jackson and will be a six grader this up coming school year. He is very excited about going to middle school. “I can’t wait to start middle school because there is another student in middle school that has diabetes to. I hope I get to meet them,” Andrew said. “My friends have all been good to me even after I found out I have diabetes, but to meet another kid that has diabetes I think we could talk about a lot.”   

When speaking with Andrew it’s apparent that this young man is ready for the challenges ahead of him in life, as well as speaking with Congress members about the hardships of his life and the importance of continued research, “I really want to tell them how my life works and my daily routine. For my age I do get stressed out sometimes and I want them to know that,” Andrew said. “I want them to know that all of us kids with diabetes want them to keep paying for research to find things that help us or even a cure.” Andrew and his mother will leave for Washington on July 7.

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