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[IP] 8 year old with diabetes not letting it cramp her style

  <A HREF="http://www.cullmantimes.com/pages/news_story.shtml?id=527">Cullman
Times Online</A>
Living with diabetes: 8-year-old not letting it cramp her style
<A HREF="mailto:email @ redacted">Gail Crutchfield</A>
The Cullman Times
Published on: 10-12-2003

Watching Emily Bigham turn backflips, she looks like any other 8-year-old 
 girl who enjoys flipping, tumbling and running around. And for the most part,
is. The difference is that Emily can only play hard for about an hour at a 
time before she has to reattach her insulin pump and check her blood sugar.

For the last two years, Emily and her parents, Mark and April Bigham, have 
been learning to live with Emily's Type I diabetes. Also known as juvenile 
 diabetes, Type I means that Emily is dependent on insulin to help manage her

"When it's high, my heart beats faster and I get all sweaty and hot and I get 
restless," Emily said. "When it's low, I feel weak and my heart does beat 
fast, too."

"Do you feel dizzy?" her dad asked. 

"Yeah," Emily said. "One time my sugar dropped to 15 before."

The Bighams noticed something wasn't quite right with their daughter's health 
when she was 6 years old. "I drank a lot," Emily said. She also made frequent 
trips to the bathroom, was often tired and weak, suffered from a fast heart 
rate and had a lot of headaches. "I was pretty tired all the time," Emily said.

This went on for about two months. At first, doctors told them it was a sinus 
infection or virus. "But they never checked her blood sugar," April Bigham 
said. Finally, April used a blood sugar kit of her nephew's to check Emily's 
blood sugar herself. It showed Emily's blood sugar was 330. A normal person's 
blood sugar is between 90 and 110, Mark Bigham said. The Bighams called their 
doctor who told them to get Emily to the hospital as soon as they could. Emily 
 was hospitalized for four days while her blood sugar was stabilized and she and
her parents learned what they needed to know about the disease.

Since then, the Bighams have been keeping track of what Emily eats and how it 
affects her blood sugar. The tips of Emily's fingers are speckled with tiny 
spots where she checks her blood sugar several times a day.

Until recently, Emily was also getting insulin shots several times a day. At 
first, her mom or dad would give her the shots until she learned to do it 
herself, then she began doing it on her own.

"Because when she does it, if it starts to hurt, she can pull the needle out 
and put it somewhere else," said her dad, Mark, an electronic technician for 
Bell South. "But if someone else does it, that's it."

When she was getting the insulin shots, her sugar began to run a little high 
and the number of shots were increasing.

"She was getting up to five shots a day and I just couldn't watch her get 
 that many shots a day," said Emily's mom, who is full-time mother and

April said she learned about an insulin pump when she was at Emily's 
 cheerleading practice and the mother of another diabetic girl at East
Elementary told
her how well her daughter was doing on the pump. 

The family then went to their doctor to learn more about the pump, how it 
 worked and how it might help Emily. With the pump, Emily's eating habits aren't
as restricted. She can eat pretty much what she wants, when she wants. By 
 figuring the amount of carbohydrates --which the body turns into sugar -- in
food she eats, she can input that into the pump and it determines how much 
 insulin she needs and automatically feeds it into her system through a small
attached to her hip.

Before she would allow her daughter to wear the pump, April Bigham wanted to 
make sure it wouldn't hurt her daughter. The hospital let April wear the two 
types of discs home to see how they felt and if they hurt. One was inserted 
sideways and the other straight into the hip. The one worn straight in the hip 
was more comfortable, she said. "I wore it two days and couldn't tell it was 
in," April said. To keep one hip from getting too sore, the Bighams switch up, 
 alternately attaching the pump to one hip then the other. There's still a trick
in attaching it though, Emily said. "Sometimes when you go too high or too low 
it hurts," she said. The pump can also be attached to the stomach or to the 
leg. "Some football players wear theirs on their leg," April told Emily.

The Bighams say the appreciate the help and support they received from other 
parents of diabetic patients and their families. She encourages any family 
dealing with diabetes to call her at 739-1694 if they have any questions about 
the disease and its treatments.
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