- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

ANTIGO, Wis. (AP) - A young Antigo girl, diagnosed six months ago with Type I diabetes, wants other children to gain comfort from her experiences.

Anja Busse, 11, is spearheading an effort to have American Girl, the popular doll maker headquartered in Middleton, create a special diabetic doll, complete with diabetic supplies and insulin pump. She has created an online petition that, in just a few weeks, has already gained over 2,500 signatures.

“It’s good to have a doll that has the same stuff you have,” Anja, daughter of Ingrid and Chad Busse, said. “It would really be a comfort to other girls who are diagnosed with diabetes.”

The doll, she said, could also have a glucose meter, sites for injections and perhaps some “pick-me-ups,” the snacks diabetics typically carry to help control their blood sugar.

“There are thousands of girls with diabetes and it’s really hard for some of them getting diagnosed,” she told the Antigo Daily Journal (http://bit.ly/1fKSS09 ). “It’s easier with a doll that looks just like you. You have someone to take care of.”

There’s more. Anja and her parents have started a nonprofit organization, Boxes of Joy for Diabetics, that they hope will provide care packages to newly diagnosed boys and girls. The boxes would contain items such as a stuffed animal, fleece blanket, medical alert bracelet, food scale, collapsible measuring cups and some fun children’s books featuring diabetic characters.

Anja is also recruiting walkers for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund regional chapter’s Walk to Cure Diabetes event in Stevens Point on Oct. 4, with a goal of 300 participants raising $100,000. She’s already got a national sponsor, Shwings, and hopes to make history with the largest family walk ever.

And her design for a race car decal has been picked to be in the Ford “Everyday Heroes” contest for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund. The winner, chosen in part, through Internet voting, will get his or her design featured on a real race car and help raise money to find a cure for the disease.

Not bad for a girl who was sent reeling just months ago, with an unexpected diagnosis.

According to her mother, Anja’s troubles began during a family vacation to Colorado, where she became irritable, began drinking an unusual amount of water with frequent bathroom trips, complained her stomach ached and in one week lost a startling 20 pounds on her slender frame.

When the family arrived home they took Anja to their doctor, who immediately sent her to St. Joseph Hospital in Marshfield. She was admitted with a blood sugar level of 900, nine times higher than normal, and at risk of falling into a potentially fatal diabetic coma.

The next 24 hours were filled with blood glucose checks, insulin shots, no sleep and lots of education, Mrs. Busse said.

“It has been so amazing to see my daughter step up to the challenge,” she said. “She went from being deathly afraid of shots to giving herself four to five a day in a matter of weeks.”

Anja remembered tears - from herself, her parents, and her young brothers, Karl, 9, Max, 8, and Rutger, 5 -and a fear that she was dying.

Type I diabetes is a life-threatening autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin. It strikes both children and adults suddenly and changes life as they know it forever. It is different from the more common Type 2, which may be controlled through diet and exercise. Anja will have to take insulin injections daily for the rest of her life. There is nothing she could have done to prevent it.

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