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