My name is Jared Kuper. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on April 25, 2009 when I was 8 years old. The complications and severity of diabetes became a reality when I went into DKA, or diabetic ketoacidosis, meaning I was in a diabetic coma and stopped breathing. I was very lucky because it was caught in time and didn't do any severe damage to my organs, but I still have to work hard to get my blood sugar under control and take insulin every minute of every day for the rest of my life. Insulin helps control my diabetes and keeps me alive, but it's not a cure.
On October 7, 2009 I was put on my first insulin pump. With growing technology, I have been fortunate enough to own a CGM, or continuous glucose monitor and now I wear one of the first integrated CGM's with an insulin pump. The 2 machines talk to each other and if my blood sugar drops too low, the CGM will tell my pump to stop giving me insulin. It all sounds great, right? Well, technology has come a long way, but it is NOT a cure and it has a long way to go! I still have to test my blood sugar and the pump and CGM are only machines which is just technology. They are great tools and have helped keep me much healthier, but they are very expensive and the supplies that are needed to keep them functioning along with the increasing costs of insulin are astounding.
I began advocating and educating for diabetes awareness immediately after I was diagnosed. I was nominated Youth Ambassador for the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for Illinois and Northern Indiana in January 2010 and continued giving a voice to the millions of people living with diabetes as their Youth Action Council Member for the many years to follow. I have spoken with our Senators and Congressmen here in Illinois and on Capitol Hill every year since my diagnosis to fight for increased funding, affordable healthcare, Insulin access and affordability, discrimination and many other issues. I helped pass Illinois state law, Care of Students with Diabetes Act, (IL HB6065) however, my most important role has been to give a voice to the millions of people living with diabetes and have their stories heard.
I was very fortunate to meet some people along my journey that not only encouraged me but inspired me to fight and help empower others along the way. My very first encounter was with a member of the Chicago Bears. A former player came to my hospital room and told me that I needed to fight this disease and that's what I decided to do. I then had the honor of working with Lovie Smith, Jay Cutler, and other members of The Chicago Bears Organization on various occasions to help spread awareness about diabetes. My most inspiring moment was when Owner, George McCaskey met me and sent me through the Make A Wish foundation to the Pro Bowl to meet the players and educate them about diabetes as well as the complications I was quickly learning came along with this disease. My relationship with Mr. McCaskey didn't end there. He came to my school with Bears players and Staley the Bear and helped me educate my entire school district about diabetes! George McCaskey taught me to continue to fight for others and pursue my mission to educate and advocate for diabetes awareness.
As I continued to meet other people living with diabetes and their families, I learned they all had one thing in common that needed to be changed. Many of these people were unable to afford their life-saving insulin and medical supplies. They were rationing their insulin, choosing between paying rent and putting food on their tables or buying the medication that they needed to stay alive! I heard too many stories where young people were dying from inability to purchase their insulin.
In February 2017, I created The Jared Kuper Diabetes Foundation to help people living with diabetes by giving them financial and supportive services. I never want to hear that a college student is worried if they will be able to afford to pick up their insulin or supplies. I don’t want to hear that a mother or father is trying to decide between buying their test strips, pump supplies or glucagon or paying their mortgage that month. My goal is to take the financial and emotional burden off of the person living with diabetes and their family so that they can live their healthiest life possible. I still believe that we will find a cure and technology is an important step, but none of that matters if we can’t help each other until that day is here.
Thank you for your support!