Three years ago today, Carson Magee learned he had Type 1 diabetes – the “day that changed my life forever.”
The 10-year-old Coeur d’Alene boy recalls it vividly: “The doctor walked into the room with tears in his eyes” to deliver the news, Magee said. At first, “I thought the shots I was getting in the hospital would cure me, but that didn’t happen.”
Learning he had an incurable disease, however, hasn’t quashed the boy’s spirit. Carson has won science awards by inventing tools that could help people monitor blood sugar more conveniently, and he’s become a fierce advocate for funding research to find a cure.
In less than two weeks, he will join 150 other child delegates in Washington, D.C., to speak with members of Congress. The kids thank them for past support and remind them about the importance of continuing to devote $150 million annually to diabetes research.
The children, ages 4-17, were selected by the international Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation from a pool of 1,500 based on letters about what they would say to Congress if they were chosen. The foundation sends children every other year.
“I am very excited to represent all the people living with Type 1 diabetes in the state of Idaho,” he wrote in a letter to a senator. “I want to make you proud and do a really good job when I speak with U.S. Senators (Jim) Risch and (Mike) Crapo, as well as Congressman Raul Labrador. We need their support to help prevent and cure Type 1 diabetes!”
Carson will be joined by another Inland Northwest youth, Spokane resident Erica Casey.
“I’m just really excited to go to D.C. to ask for their support,” said 14-year-old Casey, who was diagnosed at age 9. She is one of three Washington kids speaking on Capitol Hill. Magee is the only child representing Idaho.
The event, dubbed Children’s Congress, runs July 8-10 and will again be led by the JDRF’s international chairwoman, actress Mary Tyler Moore.
“These outstanding children and their families all understand, as I do, that Type 1 diabetes tests us every day,” wrote Moore, who has had Type 1 diabetes for more than 40 years. “Children’s Congress gives all of us a voice to urge Congress to increase its support of research, which is essential to reducing the burden of this disease on us and on our country.”
Carson, who attends Ramsey Magnet School in Coeur d’Alene, says he has to test his blood every couple hours; he gives himself shots; he can eat what he wants, but he has to count his carbohydrates; and if he’s playing sports and his blood sugar starts to drop, he has to sit out for a while.
None of that seems to slow him down, said his mom, Fondra Magee.
In addition to advocating for research funding, Carson shows remarkable pragmatism in finding ways to cope – and help.
He invented a blood sugar test kit that takes on the shape of a wristwatch – the BG Smart Watch. The face is a blood sugar meter. The top portion of the face has a little pin for drawing blood and a slot on the side to hold the test strips. He also invented a three-in-one blood sugar test strip, the Swipe-and-Wipe, with an alcohol pad attached. Magee won state awards for both.
The inventions “came out of his own life,” Fondra Magee said.
Carson was also the youth ambassador for two fundraisers, Tour de Cure in 2012 and the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes.
“It’s a horrible disease, and there’s no cure, but if anyone can find a silver lining it’s Carson,” his mom said. “Some good has come out of it though … we’re able to advocate for everyone with diabetes.”