Minnesota middle-schooler urges support of stem cell research to remove "world's worst curse"

When Hannah Thatcher, an 11-year-old from Minnesota, was given a homework assignment to write a free-verse poem, she picked a subject she knows a lot about—diabetes. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was three, Hannah has had to endure three insulin injections a day to keep her disease under control.

When Hannah read her poem, “The Curse,” aloud in class, one of her classmates broke down in tears. And the entire fifth-grade class was so moved they decided to raise money for diabetes research.

Hannah’s mother, Paula Bauer, hadn’t read the poem until after Hannah passed it in, but neither its content nor its passion surprised her. “Hannah and I frequently discuss current events, and I know she feels very strongly about finding a cure for her disease,” says Bauer.

After doing some online research, Bauer learned about the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the work of Scientific Co-Director Douglas A. Melton, PhD, and his colleagues. Says Bauer, “Hannah and I talked about the stem cell research going on at Harvard. I told her, ‘Your hope and future depends on people like Dr. Melton.’ The next day Hannah wrote him a letter (below), offering to raise money to support his research.”

According to Bauer, Hannah was “tickled” when, a few weeks later, she received a personal reply from Melton, thanking her for her support and vowing to do his utmost to help people with diabetes. He also invited Hannah and her mother to come to Boston and offered to give them a personal tour of his lab. Thrilled by the offer, Bauer says that she and Hannah have already planned a trip East to meet Melton next summer. 

July 18, 2006
Dearest Dr. Melton,
I have been a type 1 diabetic since I was 31/2 years old. I am so happy that you are doing research to find a cure. I am moving to Minnesota in a month and going to the University of Minnesota for diabetes help. I will change insulin then go on a pump. I am tired of the shots. But most of all, my mom is scared sometimes and I don’t get to stay overnight at my friends houses because other parents just don’t get this.
My mom wakes up every night to check my blood sugars because I would sleep through a low. I am happy that someone is trying to find a cure, even if Mr. Bush has messed it up. I sent a poem I had to write for a grade this year. My teacher had me read mine. I was the only one asked to read it in front of my class. One of the girls in class cried and the class wanted to raise money for research, so we did. I did not know about you then or I would have sent the money right to you. My mom said we would send money when our house sells. Thank you for your work.
Please thank all the people that work in your lab.
Hannah Thatcher