10 is the Loneliest Number

Examining the deaths of children with diabetes.

Michelle Alswager BioBy Michelle Alswager

October 2011 — The date my son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes: 3/3. The date my son died: 2/3. The mile everyone in the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes chooses to honor those lost to type 1 diabetes: 23.

These numbers were in my head last weekend as I embarked on yet another JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes — this time along the beautiful bluffs and Mississippi River through Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. The distance we rode: 100 miles. The time it took me to finish: 6:18 (BOOYEAH!). The number of riders there to ride for someone they know and love: 400.

So today I'm here to talk to you about another number that greatly disturbs me: 10.

Why 10? What's my point? Many of you have followed my column and know I usually gravitate to the topic of kids losing their lives to this disease. At first when my 13-year-old son, Jesse, died unexpectedly from this disease, I found myself shocked at how many others followed him. First Trent Nicholson, age 14, a normal, healthy boy living with diabetes — taken. He had diabetes for 10 years. It struck me as odd that Trent and Jesse both had diabetes for 10 years. In fact, they were literally diagnosed a few days apart. The Nicholsons and the Alswagers were going through the exact same pain of diagnosis, and 10 years later going through the pain of death.


Then came Eilish, a sweet 13-year-old girl living in New Zealand — gone. Ten years with type 1 diabetes.

It has always bothered me that no one seems to be tracking these deaths. Sure, we hear about "Dead in Bed" from researchers in Finland, but what is the NIH doing? JDRF Lay Review, are you looking at these numbers? As I ask myself, "are more deaths occurring because I'm more aware and sensitive since my own son's death, or are they happening at a much more alarming rate?" I'm sure there are a lot of moms and dads out there right this minute wondering the exact same thing as they look at their teens approaching the 10-year mark.

What is happening to our children/teens at the teen mark that was not happening to our aunts and uncles in the 1970s and 1980s and 1990s? Sure, our aunts and uncles suffered more complications as they got older, but they still have their lives. So, dear researchers and nonprofits, who is going to step up and sort this out so we can figure out why type 1 diabetes is creeping up on our children and taking them away?

The days of plugging our ears and singing "la-la-la" are over and the days of lumping our type 1 deaths in with the type 2 deaths need to stop as well. Stand up and ask questions so we can figure out why our kids and why now. That's my point.


dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: June 06, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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