When Katrina, now age 28, was a teenager, she knew about type 1 diabetes because her friend had it – she just never expected to be diagnosed herself.
“Being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 13 was life-changing,” Katrina says. “But having my best friend and her brother with type 1 and their mom being a nurse helped me navigate the early days of it and not go in blind.”
She adds that the support she received from her CHOC team in the early days of her diagnosis also made the transition into her “new life” much easier.
Receiving care at CHOC
“The care that I received at CHOC was above and beyond,” Katrina says. “That time in a girl’s life can be the hardest of all – the stress of high school, hormones and sports to name a few – but it was definitely so much easier with the help of Dr. Clark.”
Her primary pediatric endocrinologist was Dr. Susan Clark, a longtime CHOC physician and nationally-recognized expert in diabetes and endocrinology who passed away in 2017.
“Dr. Clark was the reason I became so successful in managing diabetes. She always had a positive outlook,” Katrina says.
Although Dr. Clark primarily managed her care, Katrina became familiar with other endocrinologists and staff at CHOC during her frequent appointments – including Dr. Mark Daniels, medical director of pediatric endocrinology at CHOC.
CHOC experience inspired her career
Katrina’s career interests were ultimately impacted by her CHOC experience. After college, she joined CHOC as an intern, working on with the research team for CHOC’s endocrinology program.
“My experiences at CHOC were so positive that my career interests flipped to the medical field. Having the chance to work with the endocrinology team that diagnosed and took care of me was like a dream,” Katrina says. “Interning at CHOC confirmed in my mind that if you have a child and something happens – diabetes or anything else – CHOC is the best place you can find. Everyone genuinely cares about the patients and employees.”
As part of her internship, she shadowed Dr. Daniels.
“His rapport with patients and the rest of the medical team was amazing. He knows how to talk to anyone and make them feel empowered, and like what they have to say is important,” Katrina recalls. “He was always so much fun to have a conversation with because I would always learn something new.”
Transitioning to adult care
Katrina’s care was transitioned at age 21 out of CHOC to an adult doctor, which she has found to be a much different experience than the one she had growing up.
“When I was at CHOC, all my appointments felt like open conversations; they never used an accusatory tone. I was empowered to make safe, health decisions – I was part of the solution,” she says. “At my adult doctor, sometimes I think, ‘You don’t have diabetes. You don’t get it.’ But when I was at CHOC, my walls were always down.”
Around that time, she met her now-husband Jake at a fundraiser for PADRE Foundation (Pediatric Adolescent Diabetes Research & Education) – a non-profit that serves thousands of Southern California families living with type 1 diabetes through free education classes taught by CHOC educators and a variety of youth and family programs.
Jake, a firefighter, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 3.
Given Katrina’s diagnosis and her family’s philanthropic spirit, raising funds to find a cure was a natural way for the family to give back to CHOC. Starting in 2009, the family of runners organized yearly charity races, dubbed Katrina Kures, to raise money for CHOC researchers who are studying diabetes. To date, the family has raised nearly $200,000.
“Part of why we give back to CHOC is that we’ve had such a positive experience there as a family. If we had had a negative experience, we wouldn’t do what we do for CHOC, says David, Katrina’s dad. “CHOC takes as much of an interest in research as we do. Every time we go to CHOC, you can tell they’re doing something amazing. You can see how CHOC is helping the most vulnerable, the most innocent. We want the money to go toward research for a cure. I hope the cure for diabetes will happen in my lifetime. It’s getting closer.”
Dr. Daniels and his team oversee the funds raised and donated annually by Katrina’s family.
“Dr. Daniels is at the top of his game for research. Whatever he thinks will have the most impact on finding a cure, we’re all in,” says Beth, Katrina’s mom.
Finding a cure is especially important to Katrina, as she and her husband will soon expand their family.
“Having the money go toward finding a cure is huge, not just for us, but especially as we’re expecting our first child, it makes the cause so much bigger,” she says. “We’re very proud to be partnered with CHOC and excited about what’s to come.”