"This disease puts so many restrictions on your life," Irma Bramlet said. "It can affect and damage just about all of your organs. I don't know of any other disease that puts you at risk of so many different complications."
Bramlet is talking about diabetes, a disease that affects more than 16 million Americans, and that took the life of her own grandmother.
Diabetes or, more specifically, juvenile diabetes is also the reason Bramlet has become one of the prime moving forces behind Saturday morning's Second Annual Walk for Juvenile Diabetes, a 5K fund-raising walk-a-thon organized by the Payson Optimist Club to be held in Green Valley Park.
"This is a project that the Optimist's Arizona District meaning all of the clubs in the state took on to provide some things that have been needed by the Children's Research Center in Tucson, where most of the juvenile-diabetes research is done," Bramlet said.
But this particular walk-a-thon one of seven taking place in communities across Arizona is designed to benefit the Payson area's juvenile diabetics.
"It is our hope to raise enough money to purchase one or more computer programs which local physicians can use to diagnose and monitor diabetes, then transmit the data to the Children's Research Center in Tucson," event chairperson Joan Young said. Young co-chairs this year's event with her husband, Harry, and Sears owner, Cherie Griffin. If the walk-a-thon meets this goal, Young said, the Rim country's juvenile diabetics won't have to travel regularly to the southern end of the state, or pay the attendant expenses, to keep track of their disease.
And diabetes leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks and amputations in the United States is a disease that must be tracked.
More people will die this year of diabetes than will die of breast cancer and AIDS combined. Ninety-eight billion dollars is spent annually on treating diabetes. And while millions of dollars and millions of human hours have been spent on diabetic research, there is still no cure.
There is, however, assistance like that the Payson Optimists hope to provide with this event which, even before the first walker's shoelace has been tied, is already a booming success by Arizona standards.
"March 9, Metro Phoenix-East Valley held a walk to benefit juvenile diabetes," Young said, "Payson has already topped them (in funds raised), even though we haven't yet received all of the sponsorship fees that have been pledged."
So far, she said, local sponsorships have been led by Mazatzal Casino, the Town of Payson, Payson Regional Medical Center, Amon Builders and the Optimists Club.
Free registration for this year's edition of the Walk for Juvenile Diabetes will take place at 8 a.m. All registrants and their sponsors ($25 per walker) will begin their participation with a free continental breakfast, courtesy of the Gila County Health Department which will also provide a diabetes and general health information booth.
The event will conclude with a drawing for 25 goodies and gift certificates donated by area businesses, including a radio/CD player, gift baskets, and two three-month memberships to the Payson Athletic Club. All registrants will receive one free raffle ticket.
The walk itself, a 3.1-mile jog around Green Valley Park, will offer both a short and long course. Local Boy Scouts will man water stations along the way, and volunteer police officers will handle traffic control.
"That's the great thing about events like this," Young said. "Everyone comes together to pitch in. That's really what makes it so exciting."
For more information about the Second Annual Walk for Juvenile Diabetes, call Young at 472-2264, or Bramlett at 472-6327.
More than one million Americans have Type 1 (juvenile) diabetesa disease which strikes children suddenly, makes them insulin-dependent for life, and carries the constant threat of devastating complications. Someone is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes every hour. It can and does strike adults as well. In Type 1 diabetes, a person's pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone necessary to sustain life. Although the causes are not entirely known, scientists believe the body's own immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It is not caused by obesity or by eating excessive sugar, which are two common myths about Type 1.