MENDOTA — When Kourtney Kobilsek was 5 years old, she landed back in the hospital with another case of the flu. A blood test led to a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes.
She has spent most of her life managing the disease and still finds herself in and out of the hospital since the disease also compromised her immune system.
“It’s really difficult, my sisters don’t have it and they can do whatever,” she said. “I have to really monitor everything.”
Now a senior at Mendota High School, Kobilsek discovered a second family of sorts when she was encouraged to join and participate in FFA.
“I had these people in FFA bringing me to events and getting on me to join,” she said. “We’re like a family here.”
Her real family along with FFA members helped her put on a benefit this summer to raise money and awareness of diabetes. Her goal was to raise $1,000. Instead, she raised $3,184 for American Diabetes Association.
Jeff Landers, MHS FFA adviser, said members participate in a number of community outreach programs as part of the program. The golf outing, “Swinging for Diabetes,” was her effort to raise awareness of diabetes and the challenges diabetics encounter.
“She started this project, she did a lot of the legwork,” he said.
Kobilsek’s golf outing was earlier this year, but she waited until November to make the donation as part of Diabetes Awareness Month.
While Kobilsek is the only one in her immediate family with diabetes, she has cousins and other relatives who also battle the disease.
“It wasn’t just for the community,” she said. “It was really personal to my family.”
The daughter of Amy and Dan Kobilsek, she also has two sisters, Kassidy and Kaitlyn. She said they also helped put together the fundraiser, collect donations and raffle prizes.
It also gave her a chance to share information about diabetes.
“I know a lot of people say you can’t do certain things or eat certain things with diabetes,” she said. “But as long as you monitor it and keep it under control, you can. A lot of people have misconceptions about that.”
After growing up with diabetes, she said she now looks forward to a career in health care where she can continue helping others while also educating them about diabetes.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, she is one of approximately 26 million people in the United States with diabetes and nearly one-third of them are undiagnosed.
People with diabetes are unable to process sugar into energy which causes the sugar to build up in the blood. Kobilsek said the pancreas, where insulin is produced, either doesn’t produce enough insulin, or in her case, it doesn’t produce any at all.
The signs and symptoms of diabetes includes increased thirst, more frequent urination, increased hunger, weight loss despite increased appetite, fatigue, blurred vision and slow healing of sores or frequent infections.
Diabetes can be managed through medication, proper nutrition and exercise. Without proper treatment and management, diabetes can lead to increased risk for heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and lower extremity amputations (not related to injuries). Diabetes and its complications occur among all age, racial, and ethnic groups.
For more information about diabetes and tips on managing it, see www.diabetes.org.
Tamara Abbey can be reached at (815) 539-5200.