HomeWilliamstown NewsMackenzie Watkins is walking for a cure

Mackenzie Watkins is walking for a cure

Watkins, 11, has been a Type 1 diabetic since she was 5

Special to The Sun: Back row from left: Jason Watkins, Marnie Watkins (Mackenzie’s parents), Margaret Porigow and Murray Porigow (Mackenzie’s grandparents). Front row is Jacob and Mackenzie Watkins at a past JDRF One Walk.

Did you know that a 12-ounce Strawberry Acai Refresher from Starbucks has 15 grams of carbohydrates? Constantly keeping tabs on how many carbohydrates one takes in is the reality those with Type 1 diabetes live in.

Mackenzie Watkins, a sixth-grader at Williamstown Middle School, has been living with diabetes since she was 5 years old.

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“I went to the pediatrician for a well visit,” Watkins said. “Some tests came back and we found out something wasn’t right, they thought it might be diabetes. They pulled me in from a happy day at kindergarten to a dark day at the hospital. That’s what I like to say.”

Watkins’ grandmother, Margaret Porigow, recalled Mackenzie was showing possible signs of diabetes, she was drinking a lot of water. Taking this observation to Watkins’ upcoming wellness visit was smart on the family’s part.

“We’re lucky,” she said. “Most kids pass out on the playground and that’s how they find out.”

The first year was tough for the family, Porigow outlined what it was like every day.

“She had to have shots and she could only eat every two hours,” she said. “She’s a grazer, most kids are, they eat all day long and you can’t do that. You have to eat a main meal within 30 minutes.”

The reason for this is because sugars are starting to hit the bloodstream, they want to be able to get the insulin on board. If you take an hour to eat it doesn’t work out.

After two years of that, Mackenzie went on the pump. Then she could eat whenever she wanted.

“It was like an instant victory,” Mackenzie said with a smile.

Her pump is on a closed-loop system, which constantly monitors and adjusts the insulin flow. It can track when her sugar is high and low. If she starts to go high it will pump more insulin, if she goes low it will stop.

Mackenzie says her favorite subject is world cultures/social studies. Outside of school, she’s a dancer and a member of the equestrian community. In the dance studio, she practices ballet, jazz and modern. She says she got the idea to ride horses from watching “Hannah Montana.”

When she’s not on the back of a horse or in the dance studio, Mackenzie likes to do what everybody does, relax and watch Netflix.

“When I’m stressed, it affects my blood sugar, my emotions can affect me,” she said. “I like to craft and draw, it relaxes me a lot.”

Mackenzie’s family has been involved with the JDRF One Walk for three years. Porigow told the story of how they got involved. Renee Bersani, from JDRF, had a daughter who went to the same preschool as Jacob Watkins, Porigow’s grandson and Mackenzie’s brother.

“Mackenzie was always there when I would drop Jacob off,” Porigow said, “Renee stopped her one day because she saw the DexCom [monitoring device].”

Since that day, Mackenzie and her family have been involved with the JDRF One Walks. She even has a poster hanging in her room.

“JDRF One Walk, a world without Type one diabetes,” she said. “I look at it every morning and say ‘one day.’”

Needless to say, Mackenzie and her family are walking for a cure. In the meantime, they raise awareness to the disease.

“I like to tell people in school, I tell my dance friends,” Watkins said. “It’s a good thing to know in case anything happens. On any of my social media pages I will put ‘Type 1 diabetic,’ it’s a part of me.”

“We educate more than anything,” Porigow added. “At dance, moms will see her running in and out. Everyone is now in tune to her pump going off. One of the other students heard her pump and told me about it. Everyone is getting educated and they’re more aware.”

The JDRF One Walk takes place on Oct. 28 at Camden County College in Blackwood. Check-in starts at 8 a.m. and the walk will start at 9:30 a.m.

Those wishing to donate on Mackenzie’s behalf can do so on the JDRF One walk website. Once on the Blackwood walk page search for “BigMacksFans” to support Mackenzie.

Anthony is a graduate of Rowan University and a proud freelance contributor for 08108 magazine. He has past bylines in The Sun Newspapers and the Burlington County Times.

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