In February 1998, Brittany Rausch, 12, and her mother came up with an idea for a skit that she could perform at a diabetes camp in Southern California sponsored by the Pediatric Adolescent Diabetes Research and Education Foundation (PADRE). With a group of other girls she met at the camp, Rausch put together a song and dance routine to the “The Barbie Song,” and it was a big hit with the other campers.
Jackie Teichmann, executive director at the PADRE camp, discovered something special in the way the girls harmonized, and she told her friend about the skit. Her friend just happened to be noted Hollywood record producer and songwriter HB Barnum, who got Rausch, Janelle Munion, Colleen Cottrell and Sara Cronstedt into a Southern California recording studio in January. The Pump Girls were born!
“[Jackie Teichmann] not only thought that [the four girls] had talent, but she also felt that they delivered an important message, and that is that kids with diabetes don’t have to be overcome by their disease,” says Barnum, who has also worked with Puff Daddy, Aretha Franklin and Barry White.
Since then, The Pump Girls have released their self-titled first album while balancing their school studies with four-hour rehearsals three times a week. Their lives have become “hectic,” as Rausch describes it, but all four girls testify that wearing an insulin pump has made for easier management of this fast-paced lifestyle.
“With the weird schedules that The Pump Girls have, we have to move around a lot,” says Munion, 15. “Without a pump, it would be much harder to do.”
The Pump Has Made the Difference
Munion was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 8 months old. She attended the PADRE camp in February 1998 to overcome her depression about being a teenager with diabetes. She had just been placed on the pump a month earlier, and admits that controlling her diabetes has been much easier ever since.
“When I was taking shots, my control was zero on a scale of zero to ten,” she says. “Now, my control is around eight-and-a-half.”
Rausch adds that daily insulin injections, constant monitoring of blood sugars, and the depression of having diabetes were never very fun. Then, in October 1997, she went on the pump, and has had better control ever since.
“My teacher wore an insulin pump, and that inspired me to wear one,” says Rausch. “My control is much better now. When I was taking shots, if I had a high blood sugar in school, I couldn’t give myself a shot unless the nurse gave it to me.”
The Opportunity To Be a Teenager Again
Cronstedt, 14, has been on the pump for a little over a year. She also feels that her blood sugars are much better than before.
“When I was taking shots, my blood sugars were between 30 and 300,” says Cronstedt. “With the pump, they are between 80 and 150. The pump gives me the opportunity to be more like a teenager. When your blood sugars are in better control, you feel good. When you feel good, you can dance and sing.”
Cronstedt adds that wearing an insulin pump gives her the energy she needs to maintain her busy schedule and to just be a kid.
“When I used to have high blood sugars, I never had a lot of energy,” she says. “When I was taking shots, I used to get a lot of high blood sugars.”
Colleen Cottrell, 13, agrees that being a Pump Girl has helped with the management of her diabetes. On top of the better control she gets through the insulin pump, she feels that the exercise she gets from dancing and singing is also beneficial.
“The dance routines that we’ve been rehearsing have also helped in controlling our diabetes,” says Cottrell, who emphasizes that she has learned to live above diabetes. “I control my diabetes. It does not control me.”
Inspiration to Other Children With Diabetes
Munion says that in the past year, The Pump Girls have inspired other young people with diabetes at appearances they have made together.
“We hear a lot from children and their parents who tell us that we have given them hope,” she says.
Cottrell adds that her own inspiration has come from seeing Nicole Johnson, a fellow type 1 and insulin pumper, become Miss America 1999.
“She is just wonderful,” says Cottrell. “We met her at the PADRE fashion show last year, and we all think she is just remarkable. She’s a role model for all of us.”
Not For Everyone
Cronstedt says that even though the insulin pump has made controlling her diabetes much easier, it is not something for every kid with diabetes.
“You have to be the kind of person who really wants to have it,” she says. “It’s a big responsibility, and you need to feel comfortable about counting carbs and changing injection sites every other day. When you’re used to it and you feel comfortable with it, however, it makes your life much easier.”
According to The Pump Girls’ manager, Phyllis Kelley, the four girls will embark upon a Pump Girls tour this summer, where they will make appearances at several diabetes conferences and even play a few concerts. A portion of the proceeds from The Pump Girls’ self-titled CD will go to a special Pump for Life fund which assists children around the world in need of insulin pump therapy.
To get The Pump Girls’ new CD, you can visit your local record store. To receive more information on The Pump Girls, call (800) 600-7111, ext. 211, or check out their Web site at www.pumpgirls.com.