Hurley Benefit Ball Ambassadors Chosen
March 30-Two heroic teens prove that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. One is a Kearsley High School student, the other a Flint International Academy 7th grader, but one thing they have in common is they both have had to fight for a normal life, according to a March 30 MLive news story. Austin Perez and April LaGrone were chosen to be representatives at the upcoming Hurley Benefit Ball by various clinical staff at Hurley Medical Center, said Hurley Spokeswoman Ilene Cantor. And they are proud to have them tell their stories and offer inspiration to others, she said.
Because of their stories, their time spent in Hurley Medical Center’s pediatric department and their support and promotion of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital and Hurley’s Children Hospital, Austin and April are being recognized at this year’s Hurley Benefit Ball on April 21, which this year is raising money for Hurley’s Children Hospital.
Austin Perez: Overcoming a lifelong struggle with asthma
“It’s a proud moment. You just know you’ve come through so much,” Austin said recently in an interview with The Flint Journal. “I think it makes you a stronger person. Some people don’t truly understand what (asthma) does, how it changes your life.”
Austin Perez, high school student and 2012 Hurley Benefit Ball Ambassador
Austin was born with underdeveloped lungs. For more than a year, he was treated for upper respiratory infections, one after the other, before he was finally diagnosed with having asthma at age 3. It was hard for him to breathe, making it difficult for him to do much of anything else, including walk, play outside or even tie his shoes. During his first time sledding at age 5, he collapsed at the bottom of the hill and had to be rushed to Hurley Medical Center.
Between the ages of 6 and 10, Austin’s asthma was at its worst. He was on 11 medications. Between the months of October and March every winter, Alex was at Hurley on a regular basis. Two attacks were so severe that he almost died. He spent most of his time inside, away from anything that could create an attack.
“I pretty much lived in the hospital," Alex said. "In some ways, I feel like I missed out on childhood a little. I felt left behind and that I couldn’t do what the other kids could do.”
Susan Perez, Austin’s mother, said that it was a very scary time for the family. Just walking out into the cold could send Austin into an attack. Austin and his family were given guidance and education by Hurley specialists on how to properly control and deal with his asthma. At age 10, Austin found a medication to help with allergies and asthma. It dramatically reduced his symptoms. In fact, he can’t remember the last time he’s been to Hurley. “It’s amazing. I’ve tried new things, got to try new sports,” he said, thanking the staff at Hurley for all their help and support. “Now I’ve got my goals on what I’m going to achieve. I can do anything and it’s awesome.”
April LaGrone: Dealing with the challenge of diabetes
April LaGrone’s story started around Christmas 2006. She was 8 years old and had symptoms of what she thought was the flu – fatigue, weight loss, frequent urination and a constant thirst. Within a month, April had lost 5 to 7 pounds and finally went to see a doctor. Her blood sugar level was so high that it didn’t even register in blood tests.
International Academy of Flint student April LaGrone and 2012 Hurley Benefit Ball Ambassador
She was diagnosed with a disease that would stick with her for the rest of her life–type I juvenile diabetes, a disease in which the body does not properly produce insulin. She spent the next three days in Hurley Medical Center’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and then two more in the pediatric area there.
“I was feeling horrible," said April, who is now in the homebound program at Flint International Academy. “I felt overwhelmed because I was 8 years old. I wanted to be carefree and now I had all this responsibility of dealing with this disease.”
April now checks her blood sugar 4 to 6 times a day and gives herself insulin at least 4 times a day or uses an insulin pump. She has trained herself to count carbohydrates and to be careful of what she eats. Eating sweets in moderation is particularly important. Too much physical activity can also be dangerous for her blood sugar. Twice she has gone into diabetic ketoacidosis, when she had too much acid in her blood and had to be rushed to the hospital.
“When I have high blood sugar I’m tired, thirsty, irritated. Diabetic ketoacidosis is like that times 10. I thought I would never feel normal again. It’s hard to feel normal when you have diabetes. It’s up and down. It’s a rollercoaster," April said.
Tonya LaGrone, April’s mother, said it has been difficult to watch her daughter go through so much, but she is proud of how she’s handled it. “Despite all her challenges, she’s been courageous. She’s a fighter,” LaGrone said. “She still likes to project that she’s a normal teenager.”
April said she has grown through the experience and hopes she can help others in the same situation. She’s proud to represent the children’s hospital at the upcoming Hurley Benefit Ball, she said. “I’ve had to grow up really fast. I have all of these responsibilities of how to take care of myself,” April said. “No kid wants to be diagnosed with a disease they will have for the rest of their life. But it could be worse. I want kids with diabetes to know you can get through this."
Hurley Benefit Ball April 21st at 6:00pm, Riverfront Banquet Center, Flint
The 31st “Carnival” Hurley Benefit Ball will take place at 6 p.m. April 21 at the Riverfront Banquet Center in Flint. The annual black-tie gala features dining, dancing and entertainment. For ticket and sponsorship information contact the Hurley Foundation at 810-262-9399 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read the MLive article, click here.