‘Chic Tribune’ Reporter’s Story Transformed Lives Of 13 Young Diabetics

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By: E&P Staff

A Chicago Tribune reporter’s story about a young girl with a rare form of diabetes — written while he himself was suffering from an advanced stage of lung cancer — is credited with saving 13 children from possible lifetimes of injecting insulin and pricking their fingers frequently to test blood sugar levels.

The Tribune Tuesday told the story behind the story, written by science reporter Peter Gorner before he died, that transformed the young lives.

Exactly a year ago, the Tribune published Gorner’s profile of Lilly Jaffe, a 6-year-old with Type 1, or juvenile, diabetes who had depended on insulin shots virtually from birth. He reported that doctors at the University of Chicago had discovered Lily had a rare genetic defect prevents her pancreatic cells from releasing insulin.

The condition can be treated with pills taken four times daily — replacing insulin injections and tests for blood sugar.

In a story written by Jeremy Manier, the Tribune reported that after Gorner’s story was published, hundreds of families contacted the Chicago doctors to see if their diabetic children could be spared injections and testing. Lily’s story was picked up by other news organizations, including CNN. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation alerted parents to the story.

So far, the doctors have found 13 children who had the same genetic defect, and can be treated with oral medicine.

The families credit reporter Gorner, who died in June, as well as the Chicago doctors for transforming their lives.

“The fact that he wrote that article had a profound effect on our entire family,” the mother of one child told the Tribune. “I feel our goal now is to find other people with the same condition.”

Alissa Cameron, who lives in Alaska, received the article from an aunt who lives in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove. She discovered her 3 year old twins had the genetic mutation.

“It would take all day to describe the difference in our lives,” she said. “I’m just ever so thankful we saw that article.”

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