Baseball-playing teen seeks cure for Juvenile Diabetes

Recently Rohan Ahluwalia went to Washington DC and spoke with members of Congress

Westview High School sophomore Rohan Ahluwalia is a youth ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Children's Congress, August 7, 2017 (KOIN)
Westview High School sophomore Rohan Ahluwalia is a youth ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Children's Congress, August 7, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Rohan Ahluwalia loves baseball. The 15-year-old Westview High School sophomore plays 3rd base and pitches for the JV team. He’s also into science and research and wants to be a biomedical engineer.

And recently he went to our nation’s capital and spoke with members of Congress in his mission to find a cure for Juvenile Diabetes.

Westview High School sophomore Rohan Ahluwalia is a youth ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Children's Congress, August 7, 2017 (KOIN)
Westview High School sophomore Rohan Ahluwalia is a youth ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Children’s Congress, August 7, 2017 (KOIN)

Just before his 2nd birthday, Rohan was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. But he doesn’t let it define him even though it impacts his life.

“Type 1 diabetes is like the only thing I know. I don’t really remember a time before type 1 diabetes,” he told KOIN 6 News.

Every day, he said, he wakes up and checks his blood sugar levels, and “based on that I would have to give insulin through my insulin pump.” He continues to check his levels 4 to 6 times throughout the day.

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease where your pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone needed to get energy from food.

High or low levels can put patients at risk for strokes, blindness and amputation.

“It’s tough to manage. Like, I was playing baseball last year and when a pitch came at me, I ducked and it hit my insulin pump and it broke,” he said. “So it kind of shattered and delivered like 80 units of insulin which is crazy.”

In the end, he was fine, but his family constantly worries if he’s OK.

“I don’t remember any time in the day when I’m not thinking about it, even when he’s away from us,” his mom Anshu, told KOIN 6 News. “If he’s in school I’m texting him.”

Sunil and Anshu Ahluwalia, whose son Rohan is a youth ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Children's Congress, August 7, 2017 (KOIN)
Sunil and Anshu Ahluwalia, whose son Rohan is a youth ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Children’s Congress, August 7, 2017 (KOIN)

She said they’ve tried to support Rohan “in terms of eating the things that he can eat, kind of cut down on sugar and that. I think our whole lifestyle has changed but now it’s a part of us, it’s like we will check our blood sugars just to see where we are at.”

And, she added, “I think we’ve all gotten into healthy eating.”

His diabetes “hasn’t stopped him from doing things he loves, (like) playing baseball.”

His parents are starting to let Rohan manage his daily treatments. “I’m trying to do it all by myself,” he said.

He is also involved in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Children’s Congress and a youth ambassador for the organization.

In late July, he was one of 160 delegates who went to Washington DC and met with members of Congress, including Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, to help lobby for their support to re-authorize the Special Diabetes Program.

That program provides $150 million each year for type 1 diabetes research. It’s due to expire September 30.

“We asked them to fund this program through, like, the entire bill and tell them how our life was with type 1, and how the Special Diabetes Program would help make life easier.”

Westview High School sophomore Rohan Ahluwalia holds his insulin pump, August 7, 2017 (KOIN)
Westview High School sophomore Rohan Ahluwalia holds his insulin pump, August 7, 2017 (KOIN)

He said it was interesting to see the senators in action and met them in their offices.

Rohan is focused on finding a cure and wants to make a difference for others.

“Since I have type 1 diabetes for my entire life I want to, like, research and figure out ways for people who have type 1 diabetes not have to worry about so many problems.”

His dad Sunil said his son is “going to become a biomedical engineer and he’s going to find a cure.”

His mom is proud of him for tackling this issue head-on.

“I think as a family our goal is to support him and be with him through the whole process,” she said. “It’s a disease for which we will find a cure in his lifetime, I’m positive about that. So that’s what our hope is.”