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Columbia Journal logoVolume Nine, Number Three    May 2004    www.columbiajournal.ca

    Unions Building Community

    Building Trades “Dollars Against Diabetes” Campaign

    Marco Procaccini

    The media has abounded with news of late of aggressive and often frightening and destructive diseases: SARS, West Nile, Avian Flu, Mad Cow.

    But more Canadians cope, suffer, and in some cases die, from a chronic disorder that is far more pervasive in our society: diabetes.

    For the past 10 years, Canada’s union building trades workers have been helping to raise money and awareness in the prevention and treatment of this disease in the hopes of one day finding a cure.

    An estimated one in five Canadians will experience some level or form of diabetes in their lifetime. “So many people in our society seem to be prone to this disease, it made sense to get involved in the cause,” says Wayne Peppard, executive director of the BC and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council. “It’s become our charity of choice. We have a national program that involves all of the provincial building trades councils.”

    He says some scientific reports estimate that anyone in the world who lives long enough will experience diabetes at some point. “They have said that anyone living to the age of 105 years will get diabetes,” he said. “Obviously, most people don’t live that long.”

    The construction unions are involved in fund-raising for research into transplanting islet cells at the University of Alberta. They work in conjunction with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation across Canada.

    Islets—also known as Beta cells--are the cells in the human pancreas that are responsible for the production of insulin, the chemical which is essential in processing sugars for the body. Although these cells make up only two per cent of the total pancreas, they are critical in this function.

    Researchers say the degradation or malfunctioning of these cells is the main cause of diabetes. The transplant process, once perfected, will enable the replacement of damaged islets with healthy ones from another host. This will likely reduce or even eliminate the effects of diabetes. This new procedure is intended to be used in the treatment of Type 1, often referred to as Juvenile Diabetes, a serious and often fatal disorder caused by the body’s immune system attacking the islets resulting in the inability to produce insulin.

    Undiagnosed or poorly treated, the disease can cause serious organ damage, including of the brain and heart, and nerve and circulation damage that can result in amputation of limbs and other serious complications.

    People afflicted by Type 1 diabetes are required to take synthesized insulin, either by pills or regular injections, in order to stay alive and functional, and must constantly watch their sugar intake in their diets. Although most people in this situation lead productive lives, the transplant process hopes to ease their burden of having to rely on constant insulin infusion and having to undergo frequent blood and glucose tests.

    Peppard says the BC building trades council organizes two fund-raising events each year for the research project. This includes what is called DAD’s Day—which stands for Dollars Against Diabetes—that is held on Father’s day, the second Sunday of June.

    “We go out to about 20 liquor stores across BC and ask for donations,” he said. “We usually raise about $7000 each time we do this.”

    The group also organizes a yearly golf tournament, usually on the third Saturday of July, which raises over $20,000.

    Generally, type 1 diabetes is diagnosed in children, teenagers or young adults. Scientists do not yet know the exact cause, but they believe that autoimmune, genetic and environmental factors are involved.

    The warning signs of type 1 diabetes include extreme thirst; frequent urination; drowsiness or lethargy; sugar in the urine; sudden vision changes; increased appetite; sudden weight loss; fruity or wine-like odor on the breath, labored breathing and unconsciousness.

    Anyone who wants to find out more about the Dollars Against Diabetes campaign or needs more information can contact the BC Building Trades office at 604-291-9020 or through the web site at: www.bcbuildingtrades.org.

    The BC & Yukon Building Trades Council actively supports the Diabetes Society, United Way and other great community initiatives.

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