Imagine being in Alaska and receiving a phone call that your son was diagnosed with a chronic illness thousands of miles away in Tennessee. That's not a hard reach for Matt Kondus because he lived that moment in 2013 when his son, Matthew, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Matthew was six-years-old when he was diagnosed and Kondus was living in Alaska. He received that phone call and his world shifted.
"It was terrifying; it was crippling," he said. "I didn't know a whole lot about it, other than what I'd learned from being a police officer and a firefighter on the emergency level. When that diagnosis came, I was 4,000 miles away and there was absolutely nothing I could do."
Kondus moved back to Tennessee after his son's diagnosis and he used his former training as a base for learning more about type 1 diabetes.
"When you get that call, you immediately start thinking what could happen in his life, how it would be different," he said. "And my experience had been helping people in an unresponsive or altered state with diabetes, and I kept thinking 'my son could be like that.'"
Kondus knew his way of thinking needed to change, and so did what he knew and understood about the disease.
To manage type 1 diabetes, a person must take synthetic insulin through daily injections or through an insulin pump. Checking blood sugar levels daily requires multiple finger sticks and particular foods--like carbohydrates and sugars-- must be meticulously counted to know how to dose the insulin.
"The education has really helped me in getting the understanding of the disease and gaining confidence in managing it," Kondus said. "Now we pass that on to him so he has the confidence to understand it. We want to focus on what he can do with it, empowering him to keep going and doing what he wants."
That's why Kondus and his family are walking in the JDRF One Walk on Sept. 30 at Bicentennial Capitol Mall in Nashville. JDRF, formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, funds research for type 1 diabetes with a mission to cure, treat and prevent the disease. Kondus and his family want to make an impact.
"JDRF stands out to me," he said. "I knew it was a great place to start, both for resources and for funding research and building relationships."
You can join the Kondus family at this year's One Walk by registering at www.walk.jdrf.org!
Matt's fundraising page: http://www2.jdrf.org/site/TR?fr_id=6988&pg=team&team_id=233296&ref_px=11407790
Victoria Cumbow is the development director of the JDRF Middle Tennessee chapter