A Paintsville woman has signed up to take part in her fourth Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Ride to Cure Diabetes event after several years of advocacy in the arena of diabetes research.
Paula Fairchild, of Paintsville, a detective and criminal Investigator for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, who has been an advocate for diabetes research and patient support for several years after many members of her family underwent a type 1 diabetes diagnosis and the trials that follow, will this year take part in the 100-mile ride in Amelia Island, Florida, marking her fourth ride is as many years.
Fairchild said she decided to take on a new challenge this year by seeking donations for not only the Amelia Island ride, but she will also be attempting to raise funds to participate in this year’s ride in Death Valley, California, in memory of her uncle who was misdiagnosed with type 2 diabetes at 32 years old and passed away in 2005 after Fairchild’s daughter was also diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
“They misdiagnosed him because he was 32 and he nearly died because he wasn’t getting the appropriate amount of insulin, so they finally got all of that straight, it was type one. He passed away in 2005, a year after my daughter was diagnosed, he was home alone and he had low blood sugar and he collapsed trying to get to the kitchen, which is where I found him. He went unconscious and he was wearing an insulin pump and continued to get insulin, even though his blood sugar was low, until it stopped his heart. That was the catalyst for me,” Fairchild said. “I can’t just sit by and do nothing, we need a cure and we need better technology.”
According to Fairchild, a continuous glucose monitor which was developed using JDRF funds to help ease the burdens of those with a diabetes diagnosis by removing the need for finger pricks to check blood sugar levels was still in clinical trials at the time of her uncle’s death.
“Had we had that device on the market, perhaps it would have saved his life, because it would alert you if your blood sugar was dropping quickly, and it can alert others,” Fairchild said. “Like, right now, I’m in Prestonsburg and my daughter is in Paintsville and I know what her blood sugar is right now.”
Another uncle in Fairchild’s family is also diabetic and currently suffering in end-stage renal disease due to diabetes, she said, and that continues to keep her motivated.
“He’s only 58, but he’s in end-stage renal disease, he’s on dialysis three days a week, and he’s too young for that, you know, he’s nearly lost his vision,” Fairchild said. “So, that really fans the fire for me, I see the return on investment of all of these fundraising events that we do, it’s producing better technology, smarter insulin, better devices and we ultimately need a cure, but if we can come up with things that improve their quality of life in the meantime and reduce the complications, if not prevent them, then that’s a plus and so, I know that what I do helps fund the research that gives us those things and completely improves life expectancy and reduces the terrible side effects of the disease.”
Fairchild serves as the Grassroots Advocacy Leader for the Midwest Region for JDRF and is a member of the board of directors as well as a mentor for the newly diagnosed. Fairchild said she is seeking tax-deductible donations from local businesses or individuals who are also passionate about the cause.
“The original ride for which I’m signed up is the Amelia Island ride. That will be my fourth 100-mile cycling event in four years. My minimum fundraising goal for that event is $3,500,” Fairchild said. “My fundraising page shows that I’ve raised $765 but there is a $500 donation that has not yet been posted. As you can see, I’m still quite a way from my minimum required fundraising.
“The other ride that I mentioned to you that is ever present in my mind and something I feel really compelled to do is the Death Valley ride which will be two weeks later,” Fairchild continued. “The minimum I must raise in order to participate in that event is $5,500. That is separate from the $3,500, which I must raise for Amelia Island … I always find it important to reiterate to those from which I’m seeking donations that not a penny goes to me. Every donation goes directly to JDRF. I have provided my bike, my cycling accessories. I schedule time off from work using accrued leave, I drive my bike and myself to the event, and I train rigorously in the months leading up to the ride.”
Fairchild said the funds raised for diabetes research also, as a byproduct, help provide research for other autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease and lupus, which she said scientists believe may be tied to a malfunction in the gut.
“So, this research opens so many doors, but it’s so expensive, and even with the federal funding we receive, that’s not enough,” Fairchild said. “Scientists want to know that, ‘if I start on this project that might take me five years to do clinical trials, I need to know that all five years you’re going to give me the money,’ you know, we don’t want to get halfway through it and have to stop because we run out of money and that has happened.”
Fairchild said she chose to do the second ride in California in honor of her late uncle, who was stationed in California during his time in the United States Marine Corps.
“Perhaps I’m an idealist, and I have lofty goals. But I really feel like there are enough generous people and businesses in our area that could help me reach the total goal of $9,000 to enable me to do both 100-mile cycling events just two weeks apart,” Fairchild said.
“For every family that donates to my ride with a family member or friend with type one diabetes, I will stencil their names on my arms and legs with a sharpie for the ride, essentially carrying them with me every mile of the way,” she continued. “Because truthfully, that’s why I ride and those are the people for which I ride. I will dedicate a portion of my ride to my donors. If someone donates $25, I will dedicate mile 25 to them.”
Fairchild said any businesses making tax deductible donations will receive shoutouts via social media that is viewed by millions of people daily and the JDRF will publicly acknowledge their donations on our state and our national social media pages, as well as our printed and digital newsletter which is sent to thousands weekly.
“It’s not about me, if I could do this and nobody even know who I was but to ensure that I raise the money, I would, but in order the money, people like to have a story and a face,” Fairchild said. “So, I don’t care to put myself out there for that reason, but I’m no hero. The people that live with this relentless disease 24 hours a day, they’re the heroes and they deserve the hope of a tomorrow in which they’re not going to have to worry about dialysis, or end-stage renal disease or diabetic retinopathy causing blindness, which is the other thing my uncle’s dealing with. I don’t want my daughter to think, ‘Am I going to live long enough and healthy enough and long enough to raise my own kids, or am I going to be like my aunt who is struggling at only 41 because diabetes ravages the body no matter what you do … ultimately, because I go to these meetings and I go to Washington D.C. research updates, I know that there is truly a return on investment and we’ve reaped those benefits through better technologies. We just have a lot further to go and we can’t stop … we can’t all do everything, but we can all do something and this is my something.”
For more information, or to contact Fairchild about donating to the cause, she can be reached by phone at, (606) 369-5929, and more information about Ride to Cure Diabetes events and the JDRF can be found on their website at, www.jdrf.org.
If you wish to donate to help Fairchild reach her goal, her personal donation page can be found at, www.bit.ly/FairchildRTC. General donations made to the JDRF do not count towards Ride To Cure totals.