DETROIT -- Kamaal Washington did a funny thing three years ago when he was diagnosed with diabetes at age 9.
Sure, the son of a comic book artist went through a time of feeling sorry for himself and being scared and confused by the disease. But then he did something about it.
Kamaal, now 12, and his younger brother Malcolm, 11 -- with the guidance of their dad, Alonzo Washington, whose comic book creations include a socially conscious superhero called Omega Man -- crafted a comic book series to help other kids dealing with diabetes.
The boys now have two comic books and a third on the way. The comic books are meant to help kids "know what to do so that if you get it or if someone you know gets it, you can learn about it in a funner way," says Malcolm. He does not have diabetes, but he helps Kamaal by watching for signs that his brother's blood sugar is too low or too high. He also doesn't eat sweets that Kamaal can't have.
The brothers' message is both timely and urgent, say diabetes awareness advocates. As more children are diagnosed with diabetes -- many as a result of childhood obesity -- providing health resources by children can have a greater impact than advice from adults, says Corey Williams, spokesman for the American Diabetes Association in Michigan and Northwest Ohio.
"I always think it's good when kids with diabetes step up and step out and talk about the disease," Williams says.
The comic books by the Washington brothers, who live in Kansas City, Kan., are based on the adventures of Omega Boy, a time-traveling superhero, and Mighty Boy, a modern-day crime fighter who also raises awareness about diabetes. In the first book, called "Omega Boy versus Doctor Diabetes," the superheroes fight the doctor, who represents the attitude and health problems that can overtake diabetics if they don't check their blood sugar or take insulin. In the second book, "Enter the Blaze," the heroes fight an alien on a mission to destroy all diabetic aids.
Kamaal was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, type 1 diabetes usually is diagnosed in children and young adults and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar (glucose), starches and other food into energy needed for daily life.
Kamaal says he hopes the comic books will encourage others to "check your blood sugar and do everything you need to do to stay healthy."
The comic books are available at www.omega7.com and are $5 each.