Inspiration on the Farm
Justin Credible with co-owner David Hufana.
Last winter I had an opportunity to meet a very special individual, Justin Credible, who had recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. What makes Justin Credible special is that he walks around on four legs and that his father, Justin Time, is a world-champion show horse.
My friend and colleague in diabetes care, Laura Hieronymus, had invited me to visit Justin Credible at a horse farm near Lexington, Ky. Born with type 1 diabetes in October 2008, he is believed to be the first documented case of type 1 in a horse. He was delivered about two weeks early, before his mother was "bagged up" with milk. When the colt failed to thrive even after getting adequate milk, the concerned veterinarian did blood testing and, to his surprise, found glucose levels that were above normal.
Owners David and Monica Hufana welcomed Laura and me to their small farm to meet Justin. We watched them use a syringe to obtain blood from a vein in his leg and squirt it on a test strip, and we saw him get an insulin injection in his hip. The colt was very cooperative and lay still while all of this went on. Justin had many shaved areas on his body from failed attempts to wear an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor. Each time, either Justin or his mother had ripped the foreign items off at night as they bedded down in their stall.
What really struck me were the similarities between the colt's owners and the parents of children with diabetes. Monica and David have an emotional connection with Justin and are committed to learning as much as they can about diabetes. And, like parents, they experience the same kinds of frustrations, challenges, and fears. They have had to deal with severe low blood glucose levels, made particularly difficult when there is no verbal communication between the patient and the caregiver. Monica quit her job as a horse trainer in order to take care of Justin, while David is passionate about supporting the cause. Justin made his debut at an American Diabetes Association Bluegrass Walk at Keeneland Race Track in Lexington. Adorned with a wreath of daisies, he led the walk to promote ADA's "Daisies for Diabetes" initiative and captured the hearts of children with type 1 diabetes and their families.
As a diabetes educator, I'm often amazed at the unexpected places I find inspiration and hope. In this case, it was in the face of an adorable colt who is, indeed, Justin Credible.