Tucson Type 1 Diabetic teen, addressing Congress in Washington D.C. about the importance of Type 1 Diabetes research

Published: May. 24, 2023 at 10:54 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - A Tucson teen with Type 1 diabetes is raising awareness of the financial struggles that accompany the disease. He is planning to address Congress this summer, ahead of the expiration of the Special Diabetes Program.

Those who don’t have insurance are paying $300 for insulin.

Kellen Tanner, a 14-year-old Type 1 Diabetic, said without the Special Diabetes Program, many diabetics are worried the financial situation will only get worse.

“This is a terrible disorder and that it needs to be cured,” said Tanner.

That’s the message Kellen is going to give Congress when he heads to Washington, D.C. in July with the JDRF Children’s Congress. He was diagnosed with Type One diabetes when he was just seven years old.

“I started to feel sick, I was losing weight, and I just felt weak all the time and didn’t know why. My parents sent me to the hospital. I was constantly throwing up everything I drank,” said Tanner. “My brother who was just 13 at the time got it a week after me, so I was the first one to know what to do.”

The Tanner brothers were diagnosed within days of each other. Doctors say that is extremely rare, causing mom and dad to become experts on insulin and the disease extremely fast.

Kristy Tanner, Kellen’s mother, said it didn’t take long for them to realize this disease’s cost.

In fact, Marisa Rowen, Associate Pharmacy Director at El Rio Health, said many people can’t afford the treatment.

What we see is, people rather than going without it, because they know it can be a life or death situation, so they don’t run out of insulin, they’ll start rationing,” said Rowen.

She said it’s not just the insulin that’s expensive.

“You have to have a delivery method, whether that’s the pen that goes on the tip of your insulin pen device or if it’s the syringes that you use to drop and inject. Many times with Type One, you may be on an insulin pump,” said Rowen.

Kellan wants to address the cost but also the importance of the Special Diabetes Program when he speaks with Congress.

The program provides $150 million dollars annually for Type 1 diabetes research.

“Critical funding for research to find a cure for diabetes, but also for the technology that allows these guys to have good blood sugar so they’re not losing their fingers, kidneys, and eyesight when they get a little bit older,” said Kristy Tanner.

Kellan recently received an artificial pancreas from the Special Diabetes Program. He said that the device makes his life a little more manageable.

He worries without this program, his brother and his future will be that much harder if the Special Diabetes Program is not renewed. It will expire on September 30, 2023.

“What I’d like everyone in Tucson to do is write to your Congressman and ask them to support the Special Diabetes Program so we can find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes,” said Tanner.

Kellen sent a scrapbook to Representative Juan Ciscomani and Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly last week addressing his situation. He will head to Washington, D.C., in July.

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