Zachary Cicchillo is one tough little dude.
For nearly three years, the 11-year-old Ahwatukee boy has struggled with Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease for which there is no known cause.
“We do not have it in our family; It is not caused by diet or lack of exercise. No special diet, pill, shake or anything will illuminate the need for daily insulin injections,” his mother Amber Cicchillo said.
But while he fights his personal battle, he also is fighting on behalf of other children afflicted with Type 1 diabetes.
He is the leader of Zachary’s Infantry, which holds fundraisers from time to time to support JDRF, a nonprofit funding Type 1 diabetes research and provides a broad array of community and activist services to the T1D population.
His second annual Zachary’s Infantry Garage Sale is set for 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb 1 at his home at 2118 E. Mountain Sky Court, Ahwatukee. Information is available by emailing his mother at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We would love donations for the garage sale of anything people have laying around they think would be good,” she said.
“We also would love any donations of baskets or gift cards from any business or person who has something for our Spin to Win Wheel or prize raffles.”
Type 1 diabetes is often ignored or shrugged aside, Amber said, saying people “assume it’s our fault our child is sick or they will our grow it.”
“It’s a disease just like any other chronic life-threatening disease. Without constantly monitoring Zach’s numbers and being smart and diligent with his calculations, he will die,” she added.
But for his disease, Zach is normal, his mother stressed, explaining, “His immune system just has decided to attack his insulin-producing cells in his pancreas.”
However, Zach also suffers from Hoshimoto’s disease, in which his cells attack his thyroid gland. He must take medication every day for the rest of his life and undergo quarterly tests.
“Despite all these changes,” his mother said, “he loves to run around and climb trees, play kickball and baseball. He has only a few times ever complained about getting a shot.
“He has taken great ownership in his own care, but he’s still just a kid and the slightest mistake can be deadly,” she continued. “He is the most positive person I know and can usually find the best in any situation. He has such a big heart and loves to help others.”
Still, it’s not easy for a youngster to confront what Zachary deals with.
His daily routine requires a shot before every meal or snack and sometimes if his sugars are just high. That adds up to anywhere between four to 10 injections a day.
“We have to count the carbs of everything he eats and dose his insulin accordingly,” his mother said. “We also will check his blood sugar before he goes to bed and he will get a shot if his blood sugar is too high or extra carbs if it is too low.
“It’s a constant job to keep him where he belongs,” she said. “Every night no matter what he gets another shot of long-acting insulin. Sometimes during the night, we wake up one to four times to correct lows or highs.”
He must wear a monitor that lets his parents see his blood sugar levels and it updates the readings every five minutes.
Otherwise, he would suffer even more than the four-finger pricks he endures every day for his blood-sugar readings.
Twice a month, he needs to get a small amount of lidocaine and insert a small tube into his arm with a needle.
“There is no cure and no days off,” Amber said. “Insulin helps him be ‘normal’ and stay alive, but it’s not a cure. We would love one day if there could be a cure and he would truly be free from all of this.”
While type 1 diabetics are more than 50 percent likely to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts, Amber said:
“One of our goals is not only to make Zach strong enough to carry this on his own eventually, but also to teach as many people as we can what Type 1 really is and how hard it can be. We are so proud of our warrior who never skips a beat and we hope you will come alongside us to help fight this fight.”
People who want to help beyond donating to his garage sale can support Zachary’s Infantry at www.jdrf.org/goto/Zachary