2017-05-19 / Neighbors

Little delegate heads to Washington to discuss diabetes

Madison Gallo, 6, will ask lawmakers to fund research
By Hector Gonzalez

YOUNG REPRESENTATIVE—Kindergartner Madison Gallo was chosen as a state delegate to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Children’s Congress in Washington, D.C. 
RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers YOUNG REPRESENTATIVE—Kindergartner Madison Gallo was chosen as a state delegate to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Children’s Congress in Washington, D.C. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers Like most kids in kindergarten, Madison Gallo enjoys making faces when telling stories, and she gets a bit overly animated when she’s the center of conversation.

From all appearances, the 6-year-old student at Los Primeros School of Sciences and Arts with a vivacious personality, golden hair, freckles and bright blue eyes is just your regular kid.

So when Madison fell ill while on a family camping trip two years ago, the doctor’s diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes came as a shock to her parents.

“No one on either side of our family has diabetes,” said Katie Gallo, Madison’s mom. “This came completely out of the blue for us.”

Type 1 diabetes strikes children and adults at any age, comes on suddenly and causes lifelong dependence on injected or pumped insulin. More than 1 million Americans live with the disease, including about 200,000 children and teens, according to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Common symptoms include excessive thirst, increased appetite, frequent urination, sudden weight loss, and lethargy or drowsiness.

In Madison’s case, she started exhibiting symptoms a few months before she became ill while camping, a fact that still fills her mother with guilt. Had she known about diabetes earlier, Gallo said, she could’ve sought help sooner for her daughter.

It’s one reason the Camarillo mom is on a personal crusade to spread the word about Type 1 diabetes to other parents.

Right after Madison’s diagnosis, Gallo joined a support group for parents of children with diabetes and read everything she could get her hands on about the disease.

If diabetes is what life’s cards dealt, Gallo said, “I needed to embrace it and learn everything I could to help her.”

For school, Gallo packs Madison a special sugar-free lunch. Madison’s teacher lets Gallo know when the class is having sweets as a treat so that Gallo can send along no-sugar cookies and juice. The school’s nurse checks Madison’s blood sugar levels daily.

Gallo said she’s also taken a proactive stand against Type 1 diabetes.

In October, she and her family, including husband, Paul, and daughter Kelsy, 3, will participate in the foundation’s One Walk fundraising event in Los Angeles. Their team, the Mad Squad, has already raised $3,500 in pledges for diabetes research.

At her parent support group, Gallo said, she learned about the foundation’s Children’s Congress, held every other year in Washington, D.C.

The event brings children with diabetes to the nation’s capital to speak directly to their elected officials about the disease and push for a cure.

Gallo applied, submitting a video of Madison talking about her condition. JDRF judges waded through more than 1,300 nominations before selecting Madison and more than 150 other children ages 4 to 17 as delegates to the conference, set for July 24 to 26.

In Washington, Madison will meet with U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Thousand Oaks) and attend a Senate hearing with California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.

Often, children with diabetes can make the best case for finding a cure, said Judy Ranan, executive director of JDRF’s Los Angeles chapter.

“We are so proud Madison was selected to participate in the JDRF 2017 Children’s Congress,” Ranan said in an email. “Madison will . . . share her personal journey with Type 1 diabetes and help draw attention to the daily struggles of those living with the disease. She and others will advocate for the important need to maintain support for funding of research to bring us closer to our vision of a world without Type 1 diabetes.”

Not the least bit shy about her condition, Madison eagerly shows off the insulin pump she carries in a hip bag and the blood sugar monitor attached to her arm.

A new smartphone app that monitors her sugar levels 24/7 has an alarm that goes off if Madison’s blood sugar drops dangerously low.

“It’s been a godsend,” Gallo said.

A typical kid, Madison enjoys painting, dancing and sports.

“When I grow up I want to be a doctor,” she said. “I want to help babies when they are new and their moms.”

But she also wants a cure for her disease.

“I don’t want to have diabetes forever,” Madison said. “I want to be able to eat cake with my friends at birthday parties and drink juice boxes at school with my friends.”

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