For more than four years, Ryan Burman's family has lived with the knowledge that their 5-year-old boy suffers from Type I diabetes.

But the Cimarron family learned to cope with Ryan's disease, and they believe their struggle has helped them grow.


     For more than four years, Ryan Burman's family has lived with the knowledge that their 5-year-old boy suffers from Type I diabetes.
     But the Cimarron family learned to cope with Ryan's disease, and they believe their struggle has helped them grow.
     "We have lived with this for over 4 years, and his diabetes has made Ryan the resilient 'tough' kid he is today," Ryan's family said in a fundraising letter to friends and relatives "We 4 in the Burman family, along with all the supportive extended family we have, have learned to make this work and are a stronger family because of it."
     The Burmans' experience prompted them to participate in the Juvenile Diabetes Research      Foundation's Walk to Cure Diabetes in hopes that researchers would someday find a cure for Ryan's disease.
     This year, the Burmans are planning to join the JDRF's first-ever Wichita Walk to Cure Diabetes, designed to educate people about the foundation's work and raise funds for research. The family is currently raising funds for the walk, set for Saturday at the Sedgwick County Park.
     The Burmans are looking forward to the walk, where they will join other families affected by diabetes, said Ryan's mother, Samantha Burman.
     "It really makes you feel good that you're not the only one out there that has to deal with this," she said in an April 16 interview.

'What do we need to do?'
     The diagnosis that changed the Burmans' lives came in May 2007, when Ryan was only 10 months old. The Burmans were living in Montreal, Canada, at the time, but they were visiting relatives in Texas.
Ryan was fine before the trip, but he fell ill in Texas and got progressively worse during the week,   Samantha said. By the time the Burmans returned to Montreal, they were wondering what had happened to their son.
     The Burmans took Ryan to his doctor, who said he did not see anything wrong — except maybe a slight ear infection. The family returned home, and they were carrying him up the stairs when his lips turned blue, as if he couldn't breathe.
     The Burmans took Ryan to the emergency room at the local hospital, where they told medical staffers about his symptoms. The doctors and nurses asked the Burmans if their relatives had a history of Type I diabetes, but the Burmans said the disease did not run in their families.
     The hospital ran a series of tests, which confirmed that Ryan had Type I diabetes.
     Samantha and her husband were surprised and shocked by the news, but they didn't break down in tears.
     "The first thing we asked is, 'OK, what do we need to do? Because our baby is sick, and we need to make him better,'" Samantha said. "So we didn't point fingers at each other, we didn't say, 'It was your fault or your fault.' Together — my husband and I — we just said, 'OK, what do we need to do next?'"
     They rushed Ryan to the Montreal Children's Hospital, where he spent the next two days in the intensive care unit so doctors could gradually bring his blood sugar down. They could not bring it down too quickly, or Ryan would have gone into shock.
     In the meantime, Ryan's parents started learning about Type I diabetes and how to treat it. Among other things, they learned about pricking Ryan's finger to check his blood sugar levels and about counting carbs to determine how much insulin he would need.
     Then in August 2007, the Burmans moved to Charlotte, N.C. Ryan's parents took him to an endocrinologist in Charlotte, who told them that Ryan would need to be on a special pump so he could get insulin without having shots throughout the day.
     Ryan was outfitted with his first insulin pump — a device the size of a cell phone — in November 2007.
     Samantha said Ryan's parents still have to prick his finger several times a day to check his blood sugar, but they don't have to give him shots anymore.
     "I would say that the pump made our lives 'normal' again," she said.

A lifelong disease
     Ryan wears his green insulin pump at all times, except when he's swimming or jumping on the trampoline — two of his favorite activities. He attends Cimarron Elementary School and is getting ready to play tee ball this summer and flag football in the fall.
     Samantha said the Burmans don't want their son to be singled out because he is diabetic.
     "He can play any sport he wants to play, and he can eat birthday cake at his birthday party if he wants to, as long as we calculate his carbs and stuff," she said. "It's always been very important to us that Ryan is normal."
     But Samantha said the worst part of Ryan's disease is that he will never outgrow it — unless a cure is found.
     "As parents, you want to do everything possible to help your children," she said in the fundraising letter. "We would like to help find a cure for him and all others who suffer from this disease."

Reach Eric Swanson at (620) 408-9917 or email him at eric.swanson@dodgeglobe.com.