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Janesville Craig grad sets sights on medical miracle

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
June 8, 2012

Beth Burdick was a fifth-grader at St. Paul’s Lutheran School when she learned her life was in danger.


Her parents noticed her guzzling liquids.


A pair of tight jeans suddenly fit loosely.


The 80-pound girl dropped to 68 pounds.


Parents suspected a urinary tract infection. Pediatrician Mark Goelzer didn’t hesitate when he got the test result.


“You have diabetes,” Burdick remembers him saying.


She was on intravenous insulin for a week in the hospital.


Burdick had come down with Type 1 diabetes, a condition that could kill her if she’s not careful.


Seven years later, Burdick is graduating from Craig High School, going to college and plans a career in biomedical research. She matter-of-factly says she wants to find a cure for what ails her.


It’s a daunting, to be sure, but Burdick might have what it takes. Teachers say she’s smart and hard-working.


Then there’s her X factor, a determination to succeed, a quality that came out when she played freshman soccer. Her coach described her at the awards banquet as “a vicious defender.”


She dropped soccer because of so many other activities. She takes private lessons in cello, voice, piano and guitar. She played in the Rock Prairie Youth Orchestra until ninth grade, when she joined the Craig orchestra.


She earned a GPA of 3.98 and is one of her class’s top 20 in academics.


“She’s actually in five AP classes this year, so she’s got a very tough schedule, probably harder than some college students,” said her Advanced Placement calculus teacher, Blake Budrow.


“She’s on top of things. She’s very organized, very conscientious, stays caught up, asks questions if she doesn’t understand,” Budrow said.


AP biology teacher Charles Kealy calls her a great student and a great kid.


“She’s definitely one of my top students. Insightful, thinks beyond the curriculum, oftentimes. She asks questions and cares about understanding,” Kealy said


Newspaper adviser Kyle Elsbernd called Burdick well rounded, noting that in addition to her scientific pursuits, she has a great sense of humor, which feed her talents as a speaker and writer.


Those talents made her a state qualifier in forensics and managing editor for the Criterion, the student newspaper.


Burdick competed in forensics and worked on the paper all four years.


“She represents the best Craig has to offer,” Elsbernd said.


Elsbernd said Burdick is a team player on the Criterion.


“She’s perfect in that role. She knows how to get order, the students respect her, and she’s very organized.”


Ask Burdick about diabetes, and she can go on at length.


Type 1 is fatal without insulin. Type 2 is the kind that develops from bad diet and lifestyle.


But Burdick still needs to watch her food closely and make sure she gets her exercise. That and monitoring her blood-sugar level is a part of her daily life, as is the insulin pump, a device the size of a cell phone clipped to her belt and attached to a tube that can send the life-saving drug into her body.


“It’s not a cell phone,” she has had to explain to teachers who see her working the device.


“I’m not texting. I’m just getting insulin into my body,” she tells them.


If she follows all the rules, she has a good chance of living past 65.


“But if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t last that long,” she said.


Burdick is the daughter of Millie and Jerry Burdick, who works in skilled trades at the Chrysler plant in Belvidere, Ill.


She has two brothers, and they are another reason she wants a cure.


Her brother Alex, now 22, was diagnosed with diabetes in 2009. Her other brother, Brian, 24, is looking over his shoulder.


Beth noticed Alex’s symptoms. She took his hand, stabbed his finger and checked his blood sugar with her glucometer.


Beth is nothing if not driven. Asked if she has the right stuff to take on the challenge she has set for herself, she tells the story of failing a kindergarten shoe-tying test.


“You can’t do that,” is a phrase she remembers her teacher saying.


She spent the weekend practicing and made her teacher let her retake the test on Monday.


Never tell her she can’t do something, she said.



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