DENVER - One in 300 children under the age of 18 has type 1 diabetes. The number of diagnoses increases by three to five percent every year.
Here in Colorado, the number of kids developing type 1 diabetes every year has doubled since the 1990s. This is the case for all age groups but especially young children.
"I wish we had an answer for that because we'd be able to stop it," David Maahs, MD, Phd said.
Dr. Maahs is an associate professor, Department of Pediatrics at the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
One of his patients, Jake Kelly, 13, was diagnosed when he was 5 years old. Jake remembers always being thirsty.
The symptoms of type 1 diabetes are excessive thirst, frequent urination, weight loss and excessive irritability.
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease that keeps the pancreas from doing its job of manufacturing insulin. It's that hormone that is vital to converting food into energy for the body.
Of the 30 million people in the United States who have diabetes. Three million have the more severe 'type 1.'
Jake Kelly realizes how important it is for him to constantly monitor his blood sugar levels trough finger pricks every couple of hours. With the help of a monitor, Jake lets his pump know how much insulin his body needs.
"I have highs that make me really thirsty and a little disoriented that can be hard sometimes at school," Jake said. "That's when I give myself insulin. I also have lows that take my energy away and make me feel nauseous. It ranges."
This past summer, Jake was part of a week-long clinical trial in Denver into what's being called the "artificial pancreas."
The Barbara Davis Center is one out of 10 facilities in the world doing research into the artificial pancreas in which the insulin pump and the continuous glucose monitor essentially talk to each other.
"The pump knows how much insulin to give based on what the glucose level is. We have all the components for that but we need to make sure they communicate effectively," Dr. Maahs said.
Kelly thinks the model he tested out for less than a week is more than effective. The eighth grader is hoping the FDA will approve an artificial pancreas for widespread use by the time he graduates high school.
"The artificial pancreas would take a lot off our shoulders," Kelly said. "During the trial, I would still have to poke my finger but there were a lot less pokes. To have a break from that, even for a small amount of time, was really nice."
Kate Kelly, Jake' mother, is relieved that a world-class care and research facility are just a few miles from their home. Many patients travel far from their homes every three months for check-ups at the Barbara Davis Center.
The Barbara Davis Center cares for well over 6,000 children and adults with type one diabetes. Approximately 40 percent of those are uninsured or underinsured.
No child is turned away," Dana Davis said. "You get care no matter if you can pay for it or not. We make sure we take care of the families."
Dana Davis was 7 years old when she was diagnosed with type one diabetes. The center was established because of her.
Dana's parents, Barbara and Marvin Davis founded The Children's Diabetes Foundation in 1977 to support research in type one diabetes.
The following year, the Barbara Davis Center opened to provide care, education and support to those families affected by the chronic disorder. The Barbara Davis Center is supported by by the CDF.
"I don't know how to explain how incredibly huge it is to come here," Dana Davis said. "All of these people are getting care and being treated because I was diagnosed with diabetes. It seems like a weird blessing. It's hard to describe."
Dana Davis has sat on the Center's board of directors from more than 10 years. She is currently the interim executive director Children's Diabetes Foundation, commuting between Brentwood, California and Denver.
Because she is so impressed with the work going at the Barbara Davis Center, she is spending more and more time in Colorado.
"A cure would be the end all," Dana Davis said. "In the process, we can make sure the kids, the adults, the families are happy until we get a cure."
Dana Davis says type one diabetes is extraordinarily expensive to live with.
"For just test strips alone, they are a dollar a strip," Davis said. "You figure it's about $5,000 a year just for strips. Insulin bottles are about $300 a bottle and most diabetics need maybe two or three a month. Then, you go into all the supplies you would need for a pump. There are even diabetic alert dogs but they are $25,000 each."
The Children's Diabetes Foundation supports the Barbara Davis Center through various fundraisers but none bigger than The Carousel Ball which is held every other year in Denver.
There is also the annual Carousel of Hope Ball in Los Angeles where Barbara Davis now lives full time.
Both events have been a "who's who." Her parents moved to California when Dana was young. The family is friendly with leaders in the entertainment industry.
"My mom tells the story.. she was sitting with Frank Sinatra and he said 'Barbara, if you throw a party, I'll come and sing and people will pay lots of money,'" Davis said. "And I guess I said, 'Frank, nobody will come listen to you.' I didn't know what a big deal he was when I was a kid. So, that's how it all started and my mom was just a force."
She still is.
Barbara Davis, who is in her 80's, is returning to Denver for The Carousel Ball on Friday, October 2. The center that bares her name will celebrate 35 years, the last 10 of those on the CU Anschutz campus.
Usher is set to perform at the sold-out party. Music composer and record producer David Foster is the Master of Ceremonies.
John and Paige Elway will be honored at The Carousel Ball.
Davis said the money raised at The Carousel Ball will be divided three ways to pay for patient care, staff and research.
Some of the research is focused on ways to make life easier for those living with the disorder, like the artificial pancreas Jake tried out. There are also multiple clinical trials at the Barbara Davis Center that are focusing on ways to prevent type one diabetes.
"It's really cool," Jake Kelly said. "The technology I've been ale to see in the few trials I've been a part of is amazing."
For more information The Barbara Davis Center: http://www.barbaradaviscenter.org
For more information on The Children's Diabetes Foundation: http://www.childrensdiabetesfoundation.org
(© 2015 KUSA)