Carson Magee has accomplished a lot. When we last checked in with him five years ago, he was inventing new technologies and watching a design of his whiz by on a formula one racing car. He’s met and shared stories with sports legends, been featured on local TV and in print articles, and given presentations to congress and the governor of Idaho. Carson was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at 7 years old. Now 16 and a sophomore at Coeur d’Alene High School, Carson continues to use his platform to bring awareness about the disease and raise funds to ultimately find a cure.
“A lot of people really don’t know the difference between Type I and Type II diabetes,” he said. “When I tell people at school, sometimes they say to me, ‘Well, you don’t look fat, how do you have diabetes?’”
Questions like these drive Carson to get the word out about his condition. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) defines Type I diabetes as “an autoimmune disease that occurs when a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that controls blood-sugar levels. T1D develops when the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells are mistakenly destroyed by the body’s immune system.”
Unlike Type II diabetes, which is often brought on by lifestyle choices, there is nothing you can do to prevent Type I diabetes—and there is currently no cure. More than 1 million Americans are currently living with Type I diabetes.
Carson teams up with JDRF on many projects and fundraisers throughout the year, as the organization is dedicated to providing support for youth living with Type I and also handling research in the ways of finding a cure.
When he was just 11, Carson traveled to Washington, DC, as part of the Children’s Congress to lobby for a bill that would provide $150 million annually in research funding. He spoke directly to Idaho’s delegation, who all voted to approve the bill. While that delegation can change from year to year, Carson continues to meet with senators and congressmen during follow-up Promise Meetings to make sure the annual funding continues.
“We create fliers and fact sheets, and my friends and I will sit down with them at the local office and tell them our story,” said Carson. “Sometimes when we come back, the poster will still be hanging up in the office, which is pretty cool.”
Carson also helps lead an advocacy club of roughly 25 kids and teens from North Idaho and Eastern Washington who all have Type I diabetes. Some of the attendees are the same age Carson was when he received his diagnosis, and he feels rewarded when sharing his stories with a younger audience.
“I show them that there is hope and tell them what I’ve done. After, a lot of them want to help out with raising awareness however they can.”
The JDRF research funding is already changing thousands of lives across the country. When Carson was diagnosed, he was initially having his blood checked every couple of hours day and night. He would have himself or his mother inject him with insulin shots usually eight to 10 times each day. Never getting a full night’s rest and being constantly poked is a nightmare for anyone but especially so for a developing child. Things are better today, however, thanks to research Carson helped fund. He now wears an insulin pump from a company called T-Slim. The tube is connected to his bloodstream and, when he needs a dose of insulin, he simply presses a button and it is delivered pain free.
“I don’t feel much of anything when I dose now, just one poke about every three days when I have to change it out,” he said.
One of Carson’s biggest achievements is the creation of Diabetes Awareness Day across the state of Idaho. He was riding his unicycle (another incredible accomplishment) around Coeur d’Alene when he noticed Governor Butch Otter in the crowd. He decided to go up to him and share his story.
“I caught his attention with the unicycle, basically asked him for a day and he said ‘Great!’ He put me in touch with his communication manager and it just snowballed from there,” said Carson.
While the day varies, each year Carson travels to Boise to be part of the ceremonies. A proclamation is read by the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state or another prominent official, and networking and awareness takes place all day. New governor Brad Little continues to honor the day and give Carson yet another chance to speak with decision makers, share his story and spread awareness.
Unfortunately this year, due to severe winter weather, Carson was unable to attend the ceremony in Boise last month. He made the commute as far as Tri Cities, but the interstate was closed. As he wrote on his blog, “We headed home disappointed but will reschedule in the late spring or summer when we get to partner with JDRF Mountain Valley Chapter!”
Carson maintains a typical teenage schedule: friends and after-school activities, playing bass in his youth group and making tentative plans for after graduation. It’s this normal life he wants to showcase to those living with Type I and those who might be misinformed.
“Just letting people know I didn’t do anything to get Type I, and we can do anything everyone else can do.”
His positive outlook is contagious, but the pump at his hip is a daily reminder that he is not cured—something he hopes will happen in his lifetime. “I still have it,” Carson said. “It’s a constant reminder that there’s still research to be done.”
You can follow Carson’s journey on his blog CarsonsCruisers.BlogSpot.com.