San Diego Mom With Diabetes Adopts a Child From Africa with Diabetes

TD1 Times Two- A Story That Will Inspire You

By Courtney Daly-Pavone May 9, 2018

Parenting is a tough job.  When we bring a life into this world we can never fully predict how our child will turn out.  Despite ultrasounds, and an array of genetic tests each child is unique and unpredictable.  Keary Cheney was a healthy twenty-six-year-old newlywed when she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  "I have always eaten really healthy, exercised, and taken care of my body, been outspoken about healthy living, and only putting healthy and whole foods into my body. I thought the doctors had made a mistake in their diagnosis. It had to have been something else. What I didn’t know was that Type 1 is genetic and there was nothing I could have done to prevent it," says Kerry.   Instead of a why me attitude, Keary and her husband Justin decided to adopt not one child from Uganda, but two children including a girl with Type 1 Diabetes. "We were in the middle of our son’s adoption when I was diagnosed with T1D, and then two and a half months later we were asked to foster a girl in Uganda who had just been diagnosed with T1D as well." Fostering led to the adoption of both children and now the Cheney family is complete.

There are 147 million orphans in the world minus two according to Keary and Justin. They are both talented artists who work with woodwork.  They seem to have settled into parenting their son Oliver Brave and daughter Zola Jo with ease, but the outlook for their daughter would have been far more grim in Uganda.  Life expectancy for a child with Type 1 Diabetes is low in Africa, and Kerry was not surprised by that fact after seeing the healthcare system in that country first hand. "T1D is uncommon and most people assume it’s just the same thing as Type 2 (or known as “sugar diabetes” here in Uganda). Because the symptoms can present themselves similar to other things such as malaria or parasites, many people go undiagnosed which unfortunately can lead to death. Because the daily management of T1D is so complex, and lack of resources, knowledge, and supplies make it really hard for someone to be very controlled with their blood sugar. "

By adopting Zola, Kerry has literally given her daughter a chance at living a full life in San Diego where she will most likely have her diabetes monitored every three months by a physician. According to Steven C. Griffen, M.D., Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Senior Vice President, "Recent studies are demonstrating that improving diabetes control is helping people with T1D live longer, healthier lives. Recent reports have suggested that the life expectancy of people with T1D is now approaching that of people without the disease- depending on the study and the level of diabetes control, we are looking at 3-12 years of life lost, as opposed to multiple decades when studied in the 1970s."

Since diabetes can affect one's overall health Dr. Griffen adds  "There are many issues that can potentially occur over time so it is important to maintain good diabetes management/control and proactively monitor for other health issues, including cholesterol, kidney disease, eye disease, nerve problems, and skin problems.  Dr. Griffen also advises "monitoring other health issues that can make diabetes harder to control or contribute to diabetes complications like blood pressure, and dental health treatments for other health issues."

How You Can Make A Difference In The Lives of Special Needs Orphans

"The best thing that you can do from America to help is by supporting organizations that work with children with special needs, or even by coming alongside a family that is adopting a special needs child and support them in whatever way that is needed: from finances, fundraising for their adoption, getting their home ready to bring home their child, watching their kids so the parents can have a much-needed date night, picking up groceries for them, cleaning their house, or simply bringing them a meal and letting them know they are appreciated, thought of, and fiercely loved," states Keary.

Keary and Justin's journey took them to another continent where every aspect of life is different, but like parenthood, it has been unpredictable despite preparation. They have found their family in Uganda in a place so different from home, but now has become part of their family story and we are all undoubtedly grateful that out of the 147 million orphans in the world we can now minus two. 

Check out Keary Cheney's Blog at

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