Most parents (and virtually all pre-teens and teens) know Nick Jonas as the curly-haired, youngest member of the well-liked pop band, the Jonas Brothers. What some may not know is that for the past three years Nick has been battling diabetes. When Nick was 13, he began to lose a lot of weight and became overly tried and a bit irritable. It was his brothers, Joe and Kevin, who first thought something might be wrong.
“I saw Nick take off his shirt and noticed that he had lost so much weight, I could see his bones,” says Joe. “I knew something was wrong and kept going to my parents to tell them.”
Initially, Nick’s parents, Kevin and Denise, dismissed the weight loss as a side effect of having a rigorous schedule and being a teen. Yet after hearing the brothers’ concerns, they took Nick to a doctor. It was then when Nick was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, with blood levels over 700. Normal blood sugar ranges should be between 70 and 120.
“The first thing Nick asked was, ‘Am I going to die?’ It really broke our hearts and in that moment I forgot everything I knew about diabetes, and all I was concerned about was making sure my son was okay,” says Kevin Sr. The doctor advised Denise and Kevin to take Nick directly to the hospital. What followed was a three-day “crash course” and a closely followed medical regimen to get his blood glucose levels under control.
Nick recalls that scary day when he was diagnosed, and says that back then, he had very little knowledge of the disease. “I was the only person I knew who had the disease and I didn’t know how to handle it. I’ve always had a good medical history and I felt like there was no one I could talk to about it. I thought, why me?” says Nick.
The disease has affected not only Nick, but his whole family. Kevin, Joe, and little brother Frankie were all worried about Nick, and continue to help him as much as they can, whether that means being understanding when he gets irritable or helping him onstage. During concerts each brother has a special microphone that no one else can hear so if Nick’s feeling down, he can communicate it to his brothers and they can stall or cover for him. During those minutes, Nick might have to check his sugar levels, which he does up to 12 times a day.
Once Nick became educated about the disease would affect his life, he made a vow never to let it slow him down. “I’ve always been a positive person and I started to see this as an opportunity,” he says. Now he dedicates his time to educating and helping others who battle the disease.
One day when he was feeling particularly vulnerable, Nick wrote the song, A Little Bit Longer, the title track of the Jonas Brothers’ new album. He hopes this song will inspire kids with the disease, and help them get through the bad days when they feel alone or embarrassed. He also recently joined forces with Bayer Diabetes Care to motivate other kids who are afflicted. Along with Bayer, Nick encourages kids with diabetes to simplify their lives by achieving “simple wins” — small everyday victories for managing the disease that can lead to big differences over time.
If that isn’t enough, the Jonas Brothers have established The Change for the Children Foundation, dedicated especially to children. Through the foundation, they raise funds with a particular focus on helping kids attend a special summer camp for people with diabetes. Bayer recently donated $100,000 to the foundation, which also helps terminally ill and abused children. "YOU Decide. YOU Donate." is the first initiative of The Change for the Children Foundation. It encourages kids to choose one of five charities to help, and vote through the website.
Parents Kevin and Denise have also become advocates and role models for families dealing with diabetes. “Often parents wait it out when they think something may be wrong, hoping it will go away,” says Denise. “But when you start to notice something out of the ordinary, move on it rapidly.”
Nick’s advice to other kids battling this illness or any other illness is that it’s okay to rely on others for help. “You can be independent,” he says, “but always be open to advice. Let family and doctors help, and be positive.”
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