man playing guitar with granddaughter

Living with type 1 diabetes

October 23, 2018 | Rick Keller
rick and pete keller in rick's shop

Rick Keller is used to being in control.

He co-founded Irvine-based First Foundation — a private wealth management, personal and business banking firm — building it from the ground up. He is also a founding member of the Center for Investment and Wealth Management at UCI’s Paul Merage School of Business.

One thing he hasn’t been able to control is the unpredictability of diabetes, a disease that has afflicted his younger brother, Pete, from an early age. Keller has seen how the care offered by the UCI Health Diabetes Center and its director, Dr. Ping H. Wang, has brought more stability to Pete’s life and to so many others with this condition.

Rick and Pete’s story

I was 11 when my brother Pete was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It was after Halloween, and he had eaten a bunch of candy. He couldn’t drink enough water and go to the restroom often enough. He ended up being rushed to the hospital. He was 8 years old.

Life changed dramatically for our family after that. My parents had to constantly monitor Pete’s blood sugar and weigh all his food. They took him to see many doctors, but none were very knowledgeable about diabetes at that time. Pete missed a lot of school in his elementary years, and the relentlessness of dealing with diabetes day after day took a toll on him.

Meeting a diabetes leader

Later, as an adult living in Villa Park, I became aware of the good work being done at UC Irvine Medical Center and served on the UCI Foundation board of trustees from 2000 until 2015. After Dr. Ping Wang gave a presentation to the board in 2005, I asked if he could see Pete.

My brother, who was new to Orange County, was having serious problems with his diabetes, including seizures.

Ping worked hard to get Pete stabilized. He helped Pete learn to be aware of his blood glucose levels and alert to problems so that he could take action himself. That was huge.

Ping also put Pete on a continuous glucose monitoring device. It warns users when their blood sugar is too low. Pete was one of the first people to receive this device about a decade ago. I’m convinced that if Ping hadn’t taken him on as a patient, Pete wouldn’t be here today.

‘Research at the highest level’

UCI is doing amazing work on diabetes. The research they are conducting is at the highest level.

Their fellowship program trains future physicians to provide the best in diabetes care. Since taking my company public, I haven’t been as involved with the Diabetes Center as I would like, but I continue to give my financial support because I know how important this work is and how much it impacts each individual and family dealing with diabetes.

When you have diabetes, you live one hour at a time, one day at a time. It’s a life of constant maintenance.

Pete still has lots of physical challenges, but he’s been living with diabetes for more than 50 years. That’s very rare. It’s a testament to the care he’s getting from UCI Health.

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