Frankie and Herbert DeWees were out Christmas caroling with some of their grandkids in December of 2011 when they got an alarming phone call. Their granddaughter, Annabelle had just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D). It was a phone call that would change the entire family’s lives - in more ways than one.
Annabelle was only six years old when she was diagnosed and it was just three days before Christmas. She was admitted to Vanderbilt, where she and her family learned what their new normal would be: checking blood sugar levels, counting carbohydrates and administering insulin every day, multiple times a day. It was an overwhelming amount of information to take in and a very emotional time. But they knew that, as a family, they could do this.
That is still their attitude today, as Annabelle and her family have learned the ins and outs of the daily management that T1D requires – even while knowing that no two days are really ever the same. During the summer, Annabelle has cross-country practice at 7 a.m. She has a small snack on the way to practice, to keep her blood sugar levels up high enough while she’s running.
When school starts, cross-country practice will be in the afternoons and she will have to adjust her routine - insulin dosage and snacks – along with the change in schedule. Even though she has been running for three years, the effect of physical activity on her blood sugar level is seemingly always changing, creating the need to adjust her carbohydrate and insulin amounts to try to achieve an ideal blood sugar level.
The family is incredibly thankful for the advancements in diabetes technology that make managing these constant adjustments easier. These include Annabelle’s CGM (continuous glucose monitor), which reads her blood sugar every five minutes and alerts her when her blood sugar level is dropping dangerously low or high. It also alerts her parents on their phones, no matter where they are, through Bluetooth technology. Annabelle also uses an insulin pump, which allows her to dose her insulin more precisely and allows her to change her site every few days rather than doing multiple injections daily.
Since Annabelle’s diagnosis, her grandmother, Frankie has made it her personal mission to raise awareness of type 1 diabetes and its symptoms and to raise money to support JDRF in their mission to cure, prevent, and treat type 1 diabetes. Frankie wants others to be aware of the symptoms of T1D, which include weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, and lethargy - symptoms that are easy to overlook or mistake for something less serious.
She also wants others to know what a serious disease this is. To anyone else, Annabelle looks like your average, healthy teenager. She goes to school and runs cross-country. But managing T1D requires effort 24/7, and carries the constant threat of a dangerous low blood sugar or long-term complications from high blood sugar.
Frankie and her family will be participating in the upcoming JDRF One Walk in Nashville on Sept. 28. Their walk team raises money for research, which Frankie knows is life-changing for her granddaughter and others with T1D. The technology that makes life safer for Annabelle was made possible by research funded by JDRF donors. JDRF’s vision of a world without type 1 diabetes is one that Frankie is passionate about, because ultimately, Frankie wants a cure for her granddaughter. Frankie also has another granddaughter, Emily, who has learned through Vanderbilt’s TrialNet program that she has five of the markers that predict T1D development, which means Emily will also likely develop T1D one day. So the DeWees family has made it their mission to support JDRF in finding the cure – and they hope you’ll join them.
To support the DeWees’ Walk Team, visit walk.jdrf.org, search for Frankie DeWees, and click Donate!