Young Teen Continuing Active Lifestyle Thanks to Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center

"How could I have missed this? She was growing, eating, drinking and playing lots of softball."

Those thoughts went rushing through Crystal and Vernon Cecil's minds in August of 2017. Their 10-year-old, Evie Cecil, came home from school with a stomach ache but no fever. After a nap, the fifth-grader grew increasingly lethargic and Crystal's motherly instincts kicked in. "Her symptoms didn't seem to fit the typical flu or stomach virus," she said.

The next morning once at the pediatrician's office, Evie could not sit up on her own. A weight check revealed she had lost more than 16 pounds in just five months.

"I immediately thought she had leukemia."

Evie's pediatrician explained that her blood glucose was at 253 and that she has diabetes. She was then admitted to Kentucky Children's Hospital, where it was determined she was actually in Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when your body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones. The condition develops when your body can't produce enough insulin.

After spending three days in the hospital, Evie and her family headed home to Richmond with a type 1 diabetes diagnosis and a mindset that providers with UK HealthCare's Barnstable Brown Pediatric Diabetes Clinic told them to strive for, "They stressed the importance of making diabetes fit into her life, not making her life fit into diabetes." 

Pediatric nurse practitioner, Leslie Scott, helps the Cecil family and others truly live that mindset. "Having type 1 diabetes should not exclude a person from doing the things and activities they enjoy. I think our role at Barnstable Brown is to educate and support children and their families so they can work their diabetes care and management around the activities they enjoy. I want to ensure all children with type 1 diabetes have the ability to be a child first, safely working their diabetes care and management into being a child."

Evie is now 13-years-old and still enjoys playing softball. In fact, softball is just one of the many hobbies she fills her days with – a credit to the care, education and support from the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center.

"Looking back with more knowledge about type 1 diabetes, we missed a lot of signs … frequent urination, some occasional night-time bedwetting, thirst, and weight loss. It's so important for every parent to be educated about the warning signs."

That's a big reason why the Cecil family is happy to share their journey. They hope it helps other parents be aware of the warning signs and to know they are not alone … especially with the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center nearby.

"The folks at Barnstable Brown literally helped us with everything! First and foremost, they helped Evie feel better and stabilize her blood glucose. They proved a very structured education regarding type 1 diabetes. They taught Evie and us how to do injections. She was so confident that she self-administered her first injection before she was discharged from the hospital," said Crystal. "On top of all the educational tools and new lingo learned – we were supported, encouraged, frightened, but hopeful."

Now a few years into their journey, she says Barnstable Brown continues to help navigate any challenges that arise, transition smoothly to new equipment or medication, and listen to any concerns with an overwhelming sense of encouragement and support. It truly is a team effort with Evie’s entire family receiving education and helping her along the way. Her 8-year-old sister, Sophie, even knowing what to do if Evie’s glucose levels get either too high or too low.

Scott says that ongoing support and education are key to successfully managing type 1 diabetes in children. "Families are on the 'front-line', 'down in the trenches' dealing with some of the day-to-day difficulties of managing diabetes in children. Having a team of providers available for interim support for families as the child grows is what contributes to family success."

All of that very much appreciated but even more so during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. "We felt like our family had to be especially cautious due to Evie's autoimmune disorder and me currently in treatment for breast cancer, so we have done virtual learning all year. The kids miss their friends and schools very much, but it was necessary," said Crystal.

While navigating what has been a new normal for the past several months, the Cecil family has made sure to look for the positives in their current situation. "We have really enjoyed all of the extra time together that we wouldn't have gotten otherwise!" Things like making hot lunches together at home and both girls are learning how to skateboard. Crystal says both of her daughters are avid artists and have stayed busy learning things like how to sew and paint on canvas.

However, the one hobby that is typically a staple for the Cecil family has been put on hold due to the pandemic. Softball is a family affair for the Cecils with the girl’s father, Vernon, coaching both of their teams. This year the family opted out of softball because of COVID-19, but they know there are many seasons ahead for Evie thanks to the support from Barnstable Brown and embracing the mindset her providers initially encouraged.

"Evie has a very supportive family that has never let diabetes interfere with her athletics. They accepted diabetes, learned as much as they could about it, reached out for support when needed, and have always had Evie's back when she needed help in managing her diabetes," said Scott. "That being said, Evie is an incredible teen who also has never let her diabetes interfere with her ability to maintain an active lifestyle."