Emma Kleck: A Portrait in Courage

Emma Kleck: A Portrait in Courage: Type 1 diabetes can be difficult because it is often misdiagnosed at least once. It may be perceived as a type of flu or potentially effects of growing pains. In some cases the doctor might even think the patient is drunk (an unusual side effect of undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes). A diagnosis may only come when the child is rushed to the emergency room and a doctor must get to the bottom of the issues surrounding their medical difficulty. The news is often very unexpected.

Type 1 diabetes is what brought Santa Cruz High School Junior Emma Kleck to the hospital when she was in second grade.

Anne Parker from MercuryNews.com spoke with Kleck who, we discovered, is an only child and is gifted at three instruments, violin, guitar and trumpet.

Debby Joyce is Emma’s mom and she told MercuryNews.com, “I don’t tell her what to do, what to be involved in, what classes to take. It’s all entirely her choice. She is, and always has been, passionate about her life.”

So Emma involves herself academically with a 3.9 GPA and is involved in dance and band. Her insulin pump is a constant companion and is emblazoned with the likeness of Mickey Mouse. Emma’s blood sugar is checked as often as eight times daily.

Yet, what seems most remarkable about this young lady is an incredible attitude about life. Emma told Parker, ‘My mom once said to me, “‘You’ve never said, ‘Why me?’” I just don’t have time to feel sorry for myself.’

Emma participates in a diabetes study at Stanford and she attends diabetes camps each year. Parker reflects,  “It’s hard to remember that this bright, warm, talented teenager deals constantly with a potentially dangerous condition, requiring lifelong monitoring. Emma herself makes you forget.”

Two goals Kleck mentioned in that interview was to participate in a bike ride for diabetes funding and to play music with a professional orchestra. We think the goals may be too small for someone like Emma Kleck.

Some psychologists have indicated that parents can project a victim mentality onto their children. If the parents believe the children are to be pitied then the children often come to believe they have been treated unfairly and can become bitter.

It may be important for parents and children to read stories like Emma’s. It can be a refreshing wake up call that an individual can live and excel even with a medical condition as difficult as Type 1 diabetes.

The truth is it may not seem fair that one child develops diabetes while another does not, but as parents we can work to help our kids succeed by concentrating on life rather than a disease. In many cases Type 1 diabetics can lead a very active and socially adjusted life.

When fellow students understand the blood tests and snacks that are necessary for glucose control many may become advocates and few will find it awkward to be around them.

We often hear about celebrities like Nick Jonas who are helping to raise awareness of Type 1 diabetes, but there are thousands of individuals just like Emma Kleck who appeal for understanding and acceptance every day. One doesn’t minimize the other. They both have their functions. Sometimes it just makes sense to salute those who continue to make a positive difference in the world – in spite of the label ‘diabetic.’