Vic Kinnunen, a long time resident of Atlanta deals with diabetes daily. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1977 at the age of 13 and has learned to live with his condition, compete at a very high level of athletics and help coach young people to follow in his footsteps. This past May, Vic competed in the St. George, Utah Ironman Triathlon which he finished in 15 hours, 51 minutes and 18 seconds.
Last weekend, Vic invited the Examiner to meet him and some members of the local Insulindependence chapter at the Cochran Shoals Chattahoochee River Park for their monthly fitness gathering program, Dawn Phenom. The program is focused on making connections with others who share similar life challenges and participants are inspired by their peers, and encouraged to explore their capacities as individuals living with diabetes. Vic noted that regular events and familiar faces from the local diabetes community make it easier for people to stay inspired and fit. Whether a participant is Type1, Type 2 or simply a supporter of someone living with diabetes, the Dawn Phenom events provide an ongoing opportunity to exercise, socialize and have fun.
The group included Vic’s 12 year old daughter Nicole, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes this past winter, Amber Medley, Director of Development for Camp Kudzu, Juanita Motely and her son Travis. Travis is ten years old and was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 11 months old. He also has Celiac Disease which means he cannot eat wheat, rye or barely. This condition calls for a gluten-free diet. Vic’s 22 month old son Martin came along for the occasion, too. The group of six was on track to make a 3-mile loop around the park by walking, jogging and running along with some socializing.
For anyone who has never had to experience diabetes personally or in their immediate family, the challenges associated with this disease are not likely given a second thought. For the thousands of people living in greater Atlanta who have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, they have to learn to adapt to a new way of life. The good news for people with diabetes and their family members is that in the last ten years, numerous scientific advancements have been made regarding treatment and management of this condition. Monitoring blood sugar levels and keeping them within their prescribed limits has become easier with Continuous Glucose Monitors and Insulin Pumps. These devices augment the use of traditional blood monitors and have in many cases, replaced the previous method of insulin injections with syringes.
The real key to the entire process is awareness and knowledge, not only for the person with diabetes, but also for the people around them. Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition with no known cure, at this time. It occurs when certain genetically inherited traits cause the immune system to attack and destroy the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin is the hormones that helps the body’s cells to process sugar and convert it to energy. Type 1diabetes causes blood sugar levels to be higher than normal, which can lead to long-term complications if not controlled. Those who are diagnosed, need to inject insulin, eat a balanced diet, and exercise. These habits, along with following the proper guidelines enable people living with Type 1 diabetes, to live a richer and fuller life.
Insulindependence.org is a non-profit organization that was formed specifically for the purpose of educating the general public on the management of diabetes. There are three Insulindependence clubs which are active in Atlanta: Triabetes, Glucomotive, and Testing Limits. All are designed to inspire people with diabetes to set personal fitness goals, educate them on adaptive management strategies through hands-on experience, and equip them to explore their individual capacities. Triabetes is focused on triathlons, Glucomotive is focused on running and Testing Limits is focused on hiking and climbing. Dawn Phenom is a complementary component of these three groups. It provides an ongoing opportunity to exercise, socialize, and have fun.
Camp Kudzu.org is a non-profit organization led by dedicated volunteers, medical professionals and a small professional staff, who provide education, recreation and peer-networking programs for Georgia’s children and youth living with diabetes, and their families. Camp Kudzu offers three weeklong overnight summer camps, as well as weekend family camps and other diabetes education and management programs throughout the year. If you or any one you know has been recently diagnosed with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, or you would like to become involved and learn more, please contact any of the above groups. They are here to help.
Vic Kinnunen will be in Cleveland on September 11th participating in the REV3 Half Ironman, an appropriate endeavor for an inspirational athlete and father.