Diabetes Blogs

When the Impossible Becomes the Possible

Third post in a 3-part series

With her daughter gone and services prepared, Reegan’s Mommy was approached at her daughter’s farewell service by a dear friend who whispered in her ear, "We will start Reegan’s Rule to make sure this doesn’t happen again."

Through the tears and the sadness sprang enormous determination.  Reegan’s needless death from diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) needed to make a difference. A difference that would guard against other families experiencing such a heart-breaking tragedy. A law perhaps ensuring it would not happen again. Reegan’s Rule would be an attempt to end the confusion of diabetic ketoacidosis being mistaken for reflux, the flu or a virus. 

But how?

Social media can be a powerful source of information that can be used to start a battle, and this is what happened. A call went out. A petition-signing ensued. It was the beginning of awareness. A start to get the attention of what was going on and what needed to get done. Advice came to Reegan’s family. Legislative action. Perhaps even a law. Then a call to Representative Charles Graham, a state representative in North Carolina, little Reegan's home state. The legislator received an explanation of what had happened and what was needed—a way to educate caregivers about the warning signs of diabetes or a mandatory testing of children. Legislator Graham was known to truly care about the community he served—the 47th district—and listened patiently from his office. Having family members with diabetes, he knew the hardships and pledged his support. So began the wheels of change.

Little Reegan before her death from Diabetic KetoacidosisA bill was introduced and went to committee where much opposition occurred. Adjustments were made to the proposed law—in concept and in wording. Representative Graham constantly reminded all involved that there was no law like this on North Carolina’s books, perhaps not even in the country; so passing Reegan’s Rule as law was crucial.

The law would encourage medical personnel to educate families about type 1 diabetes at the first office visit right through a child's 5th birthday.  After a discussion a vote was called and the law passed in committee allowing it to progress to North Carolina’s State House for a vote. The word got out, phone calls were made, and an organization called the Diabetes Patient Advocacy Coalition (DPAC) was contacted. DPAC jeeps track of issues and opportunites and connects individulas with their elected officials in the most efficient manner possible. Contact was smade throughout state. The movement was swelling and representatives heard from many voices about this vital legislation. 

Then, a vote was called. To have any chance at becoming law this next vote was crucial to move the bill forward. It wouldn't be easy. A democratic representative (Graham) would be introducing the legislation to a Republican-controlled State House of Representatives. A Republican State Senate would be asking a Republican Governor to sign it into law……...what were the chances? Representative Graham repeatedly pleaded with his collegues to put partisanship aside. This was about Little Reegan afterall, not politics.

The House passed the bill 111 yays, 6 nays. In the Senate, Representative Graham was joined by State Senator Jane Smith in a vote of 47 to 0. The Governor signed the bill and Reegan’s Rule became law. Medical professionals would now be encouraged to educate parents 6 times about the warning signs of diabetes before a child turns 5. The impossible became a reality. What was never before, now is.  Just 2 years after Little Reegan's death in 2013, Reegan’s Rule became law in North Carolina.

Much was learned during this process and the word was shared. What to expect. The hurdles. The opposition. Movements happened, people became involved in spreading the word. Currently, there is some sort of action occurring in at least 10 states. Encouraged by what happened in North Carolina, advocates in other states have been and continue to be inspirated. Action is being taken by organizations, conferences, and communities to ensure everything is being done to try to prevent the missed diagnosis of diabetes BEFORE children become sick, sometimes so sick they die.

Legislative action, policy change, and public awareness campaigns are all moving forward. And the movement has just begun.  And in each idea, each meeting with legislators, each conference, and each discussion, there is mention of a little girl’s mommy who, under extreme hardship and pain, believed the world could be changed...and it was. All in the memory of a little girl named Reegan. 

I am a DiabetesDad.

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