Young Girl Meets Challenges Of Living With Type One Diabetes

SILVER LAKE, Kan. (WIBW) - Living with type one diabetes can be a challenge for anyone, let alone when you're just seven-years old.

But Silver Lake second grader Lily Schuckman appears up to the task. She giggles with ther friends as they skip around the school gym during a fitness session.

She's explained to them, quite simply, "my pancreas doesn't work."

Lily was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just over a year ago, when she was six years old. Her mom, Tonia, says they suspected a problem when, one day in the car, she kept screaming for a drink of water.

"I kept thinking why is she acting like this? She should know better," Tonia said.

Lily's dad recognized the symptoms from a cousin's child who had Type 1 diabetes. Days later, the diagnosis was confirmed in Lily.

"Our fears were how would we cope with it and who would help us and what would it be like for her being so young," Tonia recalls.

Dr. Katarina Gambosova with the Cotton-O'Neil Diabetes Center in Topeka is Lily's pediatric endocrinologist. Like Lily described, in Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doesn't make insulin to keep blood sugar levels normal. Patients take insulin to compensate, but how much is needed is affected by what they eat and their activity level.

Of course, that isn't always predictable in a seven-year-old!

For example, Dr. Gambsovoa says, you might give a dose of insulin based on the 30 grams of carbs on the child's lunch tray. But if they only eat half of their lunch, their blood sugar level might not be where you want.

Monitoring is key. Lily describes that she pricks her finger "a lot" to check. The daily pricks are reduced, though, since she recently moved to a device that continuously monitors her levels and a pump that can deliver tiny amounts of insulin throughout the day.

Lily says the school nurse helps her keep track of her number and might either send her for extra play time or a snack if it's too high or too low.

But like other people with Type 1 diabetes, she's not restricted on her activities. Dr. Gambosova says Type 1 diabetics can do just about any activity they want, so long as they monitor themselves and take insulin.

Part of the key in Lily sticking to these lessons are the lessons she's taught her classmates. The school nurse and Lily's mom explain what diabetes is and signs Lily might be having trouble. If her friends notice something off, they are told to find an adult to help.

"We don't want them to be afraid of her, we want them to help her," Tonia said.

Parents also have received notes, not restricting snacks, but explaining why it's important that Lily knows the carbs they contain. Dr. Gambosova says people with Type 1 diabetes can treat themselves to things like cupcakes once in a while - just not every day, since the insulin they take artificially isn't as perfect as what the body would do if the pancreas functioned normally.

Lily's classmates have learned right along with Lily. They even joined in getting special shirts and buttons to support her team for a recent diabetes awareness walk, a sure sign they'll continue to be there for her every step of the way.

"We can hope for a cure. We can't promise a cure," Tonia said. "But I can promise that I will teach the community and her friends that we will take care of her."

Only about five percent of people with diabetes have Type 1. It's something they're born with and is different from Type 2 diabetes, which develops later on and is often associated with obesity.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month.