By: Staff  Date: 01/12/2012 Category: | Research Reports |

When Jeff and Kelly Berndahl brought their newborn daughter Brittany home from the hospital, they had a healthy baby with a bright future ahead of her. Today, after years of lifesaving medical treatment, Brittany can still look forward to a long, healthy, active life thanks to the humane use of animals in biomedical research.

When Brittany was just a few months old, she became sick with what the family doctor believed was the flu. But when she didn't get better, her parents began to worry.

"At one point," said Kelly, I think I was at the doctor every other week with her. She was sick for a long time, and the doctors just kept telling me it was the flu or yet another virus."

At the time, Kelly wasn't aware of any family history of illness that would suggest it was something more serious. One night, when Brittany's breathing became very shallow and her skin began to look gray, her mother rushed her to Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle. "Within a few minutes, they recognized that she was in a diabetic coma," Kelly said. Brittany was 11 months old.

Since that night five years ago, Kelly and Jeff have treated their daughter's juvenile diabetes by monitoring her blood sugar and giving her insulin shots that were developed through the use of animals in biomedical research. "I'm an animal lover, but I'm also very thankful that we have a way to treat Brittany's diabetes and keep her healthy," said her mother. Without the research that discovered insulin, Brittany would probably never have lived to be the happy, healthy, kindergartener she is today.

Shortly after Brittany's diagnosis, her grandfather retired from his job and began to research family genealogy. It was then the Berndahls first learned of a family history of diabetes.

"We found there had been many family deaths from diabetic complications because there was no treatment for it then," Kelly said.

Though grateful for the treatment available to diabetics, Kelly said that it's not always easy to raise a child suffering from a chronic illness. "Sometimes it's hard for her to understand why she shouldn't always have a piece of birthday cake when all the other kids can," Kelly said. Although she now has the chance to live a fairly normal life, Brittany still faces many challenges. For example, now that she is in school, she is more likely to get the flu from other children. While the flu is relatively routine for most children, being able to keep food down can be a serious problem for a child whose blood sugar must be carefully maintained. Researchers have made tremendous strides in the treatment of diabetes over the last 50 years, and Jeff and Kelly are hopeful that Brittany may benefit from future discoveries so she can deal with potential life-threatening complications as she grows up. Jeff and Kelly and their daughters Lindsay and Brittany live in Edmonds, Washington, with Tucker, their Cocker Spaniel. They are members of Incurably Ill for Animal Research, an organization that provides the patient's perspective about the use of animals in biological, medical, and behavioral research. IIFAR can be reached at (206) 774-1384.

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All Authors Of This Article: | Patty Wood |
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