South Texas Juvenile Diabetes Association helping families struggling with the disease

Local News

MCALLEN, Texas – Just a day before Matthew Garrett and his family were to celebrate his 3rd birthday, Matthew became lethargic and was not himself. Even wanting to cancel his Chuck E. Cheese birthday party. It was the weekend so his parents researched his symptoms online.

Harlan Garrett, Matthew’s father, “We really didn’t like what we were reading. We didn’t tell each other because we were really hoping and praying that we were wrong.”

First thing on a Monday morning a visit to his pediatrician showed Matthew had a blood sugar reading of 654.

“He goes ‘your son had diabetes’. I’ve already contacted the hospital we have a room ready for him to go in there. You do not go home, you do not go get clothes.” Said Harlan Garrett.

Matthew had Type 1 Diabetes and it took 8 days to stabilize him, leaving his parents time to wonder what they did wrong. Harlan Garrett says after leaving the hospital he was lost and wanted answers. The answers would from the South Texas Juvenile Diabetes Association.

Debra Franco, Executive director, STJDA, “We work really hard to work with our local hospitals to make sure that families know upon diagnosis that they are not alone in their journey. That there’s a local organization that’s there for them.”

Debra Franco says the organization was born out of sheer need. It was founded 8 years ago after her own son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and sent to Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi for treatment. She said there were no doctors or hospitals in the Valley who could treat him.

“It’s just really frightening not to have a support system when you have a child that has been diagnosed with a chronic disease.” Said Franco.

The organization is often the first resource for parents through programs like the Shot Spot Bears Program. With Type 2 Diabetes on the rise with children in the Valley, educational outreach programs like Stomp Out Diabetes, which reached more than 22,000 children.

Felipe Salinas, Board President STJDA, “Families receive that box along with helpful literature books to get them started in the journey and a form they can fill out asking them for information so they can reach out to them.”

Matthew Garrett is now 5 and has his diabetes under control. Thanks to a monitor which test his blood sugar every five minutes sending a notification to his parents smartphone.

Matthew’s doctor says his diabetes stems from a virus which attacks cells in his pancreas blocking it from producing insulin.

Harlan Garrett says he can’t say enough good things about STJDA and all the support his family has received.

Franco adds, “We are there to support families. We ourselves are families dealing with this disease. The compassion is there, the empathy is there and the support system is there.”

Thanks to the work the South Texas Juvenile Diabetes Association does, there are now three pediatric endocrinologists in the Valley and every hospital can now treat children with diabetes.

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