Greer's OC: Film aims to shed light on diabetes

A year ago, my editor at this paper was nice enough to let me write about the five-year anniversary of one of my four sons being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Writing about a devastating diagnosis was cathartic, and now I have a positive update.

Diabetes continues to be a daily struggle for my Tristan, now 20, and a constant worry for everyone close to him. But I'm now an executive producer of "Patient 13," the first documentary in production that will take an in-depth look at Type 1 diabetes, which prevents patients from producing insulin, and efforts to find a cure.

The groundbreaking film recently drew the attention of well-known street artist (and Type 1 diabetic) Shepard Fairey, who is famous for his Obama "Hope" campaign poster.

"I support art that inspires change and awareness," Fairey said. "The 'Patient 13' documentary deserves all the support people can give it, bringing world attention to finding a cure for diabetes."

We just raised $50,000 for the documentary and recently kicked off fundraising at the Mary and Dick Allen Diabetes Center at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach.

The cameras will keep rolling at upcoming clinical trials at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles and during the making of the Islet Sheet, a potential cure for Type 1 diabetes, in San Francisco and at UC Irvine.

Our nonprofit's goals are to cut a trailer to raise $1 million in the next round of funding, including through grants from foundations, and release the feature length documentary in 2013.

As prevalent as Type 1 diabetes is, it's really a misunderstood disease, and is constantly confused with Type 2 diabetes, which can be cured and more easily managed in many patients.

Surprisingly, there hasn't been a powerful film made to shed the light on Type 1. And it's needed now more than ever.

Type 1 (and Type 2) diabetes are on the rise in the United States. There are about 3 million people who have Type 1, and their annual medical tab in the U.S. alone is $220 billion.

"Patient 13" is being made by two award-winning documentary filmmakers, Lisa Hepner (a 20-year Type 1 diabetic) and her husband, Guy Mossman.

The film will follow Scott King — scientist, entrepreneur and type 1 diabetic — who is on a quest to cure diabetes. This is the culmination of King's 34-year career of working toward a cure, and he will even experiment on himself too — hence the title of the film, "Patient 13." Early next year, studies on animals will begin, followed by clinical trials in humans if all goes well.

The film will also focus on the work of Dr. Jonathan Lakey, director of research at UCI's Department of Surgery.

In the diabetes world, Lakey is a superstar.

Ten years ago, as co-founder of the Edmonton Protocol in Canada, he seemed to be on the verge of curing type 1 diabetics from insulin dependence, through islet cell (which produce insulin) transplantation. The procedure worked temporarily, but the human islets failed over time, due to anti rejection drugs and exhaustion.

Lakey is now working on an Islet Sheet device (about the size of a business card) that holds insulin-producing islet cells and is not detectable by the body, which doesn't reject them.

Chances are you or someone you know has been affected by diabetes, and this film will bring awareness about what living with this disease is really like, and the incredible potential for a medical breakthrough that will tame this disease. If you're looking for a meaningful holiday gift, consider a tax-deductible donation to this film.

Thank you.

For more information about diabetes and the film "Patient 13," visit

GREER WYLDER produces the weekly "Greer's OC" shopping column for the Independent and its sister papers in Orange County.

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