Eye on the prize


POSTED: Monday, November 16, 2009

Rain didn't stop 188 supporters of 9-year-old Taylor Kim from joining her Saturday on a Walk to Cure Diabetes at Kapiolani Park.

“;I was just shocked - everyone showed up,”; said Taylor's mother, Chandra.

Diagnosed in September 2008 with type 1 diabetes, the Kaleiopuu Elementary School fourth-grader had one of the largest groups of supporters in the 16th annual fundraising event sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Manya Levin, the foundation's Hawaii chapter director, said normally 1,000 people participate in the walk. The number dropped to about 700 because of the weather, but it was “;perfectly fine”; during the walk, she said, explaining the rain held off until it ended.

She said the chapter still expects to reach its goal of $200,000. Taylor's group alone raised about $6,000, and money is still coming in, Levin said.

Taylor said she got all her friends and classmates to join her parents, Chandra and Edward, and brother, Mitchell, 11, in raising money to find a cure for diabetes because she has a lot of plans.

One is to win more tae kwon do medals.





        Type 1 diabetes is an incurable autoimmune disease characterized by abnormally high sugar in the blood because of an insulin deficiency. Unlike type 2, or adult onset diabetes, it is not preventable. Symptoms:

» Extreme thirst
        » Frequent urination
        » Sudden vision changes
        » Fruity, sweet breath odor
        » Increased appetite
        » Sudden weight loss
        » Drowsiness, lethargy
        » Heavy, labored breathing
        » Stupor, unconsciousness


Source: Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation




The Waipahu girl has been competing since age 4 in the Korean martial art and Olympic sport, in which opponents score points by kicking or striking an opponent's body padding.

Chandra Kim said her daughter just tested for a red belt at the Oahu Tae Kwon-Do Center in Aiea.

“;It was something we thought she's got to continue,”; Kim said. “;It's her life.”;

Exercise is important for a diabetic, she added. “;She's lucky she's always been very active.”;

She loves swimming, playing with dolls, singing and dancing, and drawing and is in the gifted and talented program at Kaleiopuu Elementary, her mom said.

“;She's very imaginative.”;

In July, Taylor competed in a Junior Olympics tournament for tae kwon do in Austin, Texas, winning a bronze medal in her division. But she nearly didn't compete because her blood sugar levels were high, her mother said.

“;Until the moment she went into the ring, we were constantly checking, making sure she was OK. It's the first time the coaches dealt with someone with diabetes. It was a learning experience for everyone.”;

Taylor has worn an insulin pump since June, but removes it for training and competition, her mother said.

She said Taylor's brother, a sixth-grader, “;is wonderful,”; adding, “;It's amazing how helpful he is.”;

Last fall he saw his sister sick at school; she was in the health room and was heading back to class when he stopped her. “;No, you go back to the health room,”; he told her. “;You don't look good.”;

The next day she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, his mother recalls.

Kim said Taylor had been lethargic and constantly thirsty, so they knew something wasn't right. They thought she might be overtraining for the tournaments or coming down with the flu, she said.

The diagnosis came as a shock.

“;We couldn't understand how this was possible and didn't understand what it even was,”; said Chandra Kim, who works part time for the law firm of Melvin Agena.

Since then, she said, the family has learned a lot about the challenges young diabetics face.

One casualty of the weekend weather was a showing Saturday of the award-winning documentary “;Life for a Child,”; sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals and Sunset on the Beach. Filmed in October 2007 in Katmandu and Nepal's mountainous Sindhuli region, the documentary follows three children with diabetes and the sacrifices made by their families to obtain treatment for them.