On Dec. 2, the Christmas Extravaganza Show was held at the Colo High School, with all proceeds donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). The Christmas show was filled with talented singers and dancers and the evening’s guest speakers on behalf of the JDRF were 13-year-old Elizabeth Terry and her mother Jennifer, from Ankeny.
The audience filled the cafeteria and all eyes were on Jennifer when she began Elizabeth’s extraordinary story. “A little over a year ago we noticed Elizabeth was having some issues at school, which included being super emotional, lots of headaches and stomach aches. We thought it was just from being in a new school and part of being a 12-year-old girl. Over Christmas break, we noticed Elizabeth was going to the bathroom a lot, she was thirsty all the time and was eating all the time.”
She continued, “I did what every mom does and googled these symptoms. Every time I searched, type 1 diabetes came up. We have type 2 diabetes in our family, so I was aware of the symptoms, but we really didn’t know anything about type 1 diabetes. I decided to make an appointment to have Elizabeth checked out because something just wasn’t right.”
“On Tuesday, Jan. 3, the kids went back to school after Christmas break. Elizabeth would come home and be asleep by 5 p.m. I thought she was just exhausted from going back to school. However, she did the same thing Wednesday and Thursday. This was not normal!” said Jennifer.
” Elizabeth’s doctor’s appointment was on Friday, the 6th, and she had to fast so her blood sugar could be checked. They drew blood and checked her urine. The doctor came back and said Elizabeth has type 1 diabetes…” stated Jennifer. ” We were told to immediately head to Blank Children’s endocrinologist, in downtown Des Moines. We were instructed to not make any stops — just to get there ASAP.”
“We got to Blank and they did more lab work and gave Elizabeth her first shot of insulin. She was getting sicker because her blood sugar was so high and she was dehydrated from fasting. We tried to take her to get some food, but she got sick, so we had to take her back to get IV fluids.”
Jennifer continued, ” We decided to stay overnight in the hospital because we wanted her monitored and to also get as much education as possible. There was much to learn; it was overwhelming. We left the hospital the next day armed with plenty of information and some anxiety as well. Our lives would now revolve around blood sugar checks, counting carbs and insulin shots. Elizabeth would need to check her blood sugar (via finger prick) 8-10 times a day, or more if needed. She would need four or more shots of insulin a day. For the first week after diagnosis, we would need to check her blood sugar once or twice during the night. It felt like we had a newborn baby again!”
“In March we were able to get Elizabeth a continuous glucose monitor called a Dexcom. This means fewer finger pricks!” stated Jennifer. This is a device that is attached to the body to give us a constant reading of her blood sugar. Through an app on her phone, the data is transmitted up to five people, so we can see her blood sugar 24/7. This has helped give us some peace of mind because we can set alerts for low and high blood sugars. It helps to prevent extremes.”
“In August we were able to get Elizabeth an insulin pump. This means no more shots!” exclaimed Jennifer. The pump gives her a constant flow of insulin, and when she eats we enter the carbohydrates into the pump and it calculates and gives the required insulin. We are so thankful for this technology and look forward to the technology that is in the works for the future. Having a Dexcom and insulin pump has made life a little easier, but there have been times the pump sites have failed. A failed pump site usually means a shot of insulin is needed if her blood sugar is high.”
“Type 1 diabetes doesn’t only affect the child diagnosed — it affects the whole family. Both of our other daughters, Hannah and Sara, know how to give an insulin shot and enter carbs into the pump. They must also know how to administer life-saving glucagon in case of a severe low blood sugar, which can cause unconsciousness or seizures. We have had many nights when we are alerted by her Dexcom for either a high or low reading. So we are up to give her insulin through the pump for a high reading or treating a low blood sugar with fast-acting carbohydrates, which is usually a juice box.”
“We immediately got involved with JDRF because we believe in the research they are doing and wanted to meet other families with T1D. In July 2017, Elizabeth was elected as JDRF youth ambassador. As an ambassador, Elizabeth gets to advocate and share her story,” said Jennifer. “We even got to meet the governor and help declare Nov. 1 as Type 1 Diabetes day in the state of Iowa.”
In conclusion, Jennifer said, “As a family, we have decided to be positive and take this one day at a time. Elizabeth is a strong and courageous young lady. She handles this with grace and composure. We have never heard her complain or ask “why me?” Type 1 diabetes is a challenge, but we won’t let it beat us! We will keep fighting until we find a cure.”
Diabetes doesn’t choose who it will affect, but a community of people chose to gather together in support of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The Christmas show was a huge success and we rallied together and raised $3,974 for a donation to continue research, and to give hope of a cure to those who are affected by this disease.
If you would like to get involved with the local JDRF chapter, visit JDRF.com. The Terry family will also be participating in the JDRF One Walk on May 12, at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. If you would like to join their family on this walk or make a donation to the foundation, you can contact Jennifer Terry at; firstname.lastname@example.org.