Wednesday was the World Diabetes Day, a celebration organized by the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization in 1991, in order to address growing concerns about the escalation of health hazards.
By 2030, up to 522 million people are expected to have diabetes, according to data from vorlddiabetes.org, and today more than 200 million diabetics have not been diagnosed. World Diabetes Day does not recognize only those living with this chronic condition; It is also intended to educate people about the signs of diabetes warning through the stories that patients themselves say.
That's why it was such a great Wednesday for Ellie, a four-year-old in St. Andrev, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes less than three months ago. Her teachers and members of the pre-school institution greeted her with decorations in blue, just like the "blue circle" that symbolizes awareness of diabetes.
Children and teachers wore blue colors and made blue hearts with messages like "You are so brave!"
"She was really surprised, especially when all her friends came in and gave her the pictures they made for her," said Ellie's mother Maria Gipson-Aldrich. Her daughter was also very excited about her clothes, along with the blue ribbons in her hair. "She was talking about wearing blue days."
More than twenty pre-school kindergartens sat on the floor in a classroom with Ellie to hear her teacher, Lisa Hill, read "Ballerina Dreams: A Book for Diabetes", a story about a young girl named Zippi diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
"It's me," said Eli, as Hill recalled how Zippi should take insulin photos to control her blood sugar. "That's what I'm doing!"
Eli's friends were curious about her condition, and Ellie was more willing to answer all her questions about her "sugars," as she calls them. She jumped up and down and spoke cheerfully while holding the bearish bear, Rufus, who she received at the hospital after being diagnosed.
The stuffed bear has labels on its paws to indicate where diabetics like Ellie are kidding to test blood sugar and stuff it on the stomach to show where diabetic patients often give insulin images.
"He is my favorite," she said, hugging the bear's bear.
But Rufus is just one of Elijah's favorite animals. According to Mary, her daughter has another name Bistro. A sticker that resembles that particular bear is at the top of Ellie's Gek G6, a continuous glucose monitor attached to her hand.
That bear even went into his family project at school.
"The Bistro created a family tree, but our dog is not," Maria said with a laugh.
Projects in pre-school high school led Ellie more smile and laughter. The children made diabetic-blue necklaces and bracelets with pearls, pipe cleaners and tape. Many gave her new equipment to Ellie, who felt "good and happy".
Ellie was diagnosed on September 6 at Tidevater Children's Associates at Harbor View. She and her parents, Mary and Nathan Aldrich, went to the Children's Hospital of Royal Daughters in Norfolk the same evening.
She spent four days in CHKD with her mother in tears, but she still had good news. At 297, her blood sugar was high, but many other diabetics learn about her condition with a blood sugar level well above 500. There were only a week of signs – such as thirst and frequent urination-before Elli's parents caught .
People with type 1 diabetes have pancreas producing little or no insulin, a hormone that needs the body to get glucose that breaks down from carbohydrates from the bloodstream and into the body's cells. This causes the blood glucose level – or blood sugar level in the body to rise uncontrollably.
According to the American Diabetes Association, signs of a possible type 1 diabetes include frequent urination, thirst, extreme hunger (even when eating), fatigue, blurred vision, and weight loss.
Type 1 is not a childhood illness, as many believe. It's an autoimmune disorder that can happen to anyone at any time. All of this was taught by doctors during her daughter's stay at CHKD, and she learned how to help manage her daughter and to see signs of high and low blood sugar levels.
"I was really scared that she was going a bit low, but they said, as long as they checked her fingers and watched her we were, when we first saw something wrong, then we should not worry too much about it," she said.
Elli's parents check her blood sugar when she wakes up, before bedtime and around every meal of the day. This extensive routine made it easier for the Dekcom G6, Maria said.
Ellie's device allows her mother to keep tabs on the distance and falling of her daughter's blood sugar through the "sugarmat", a smartphone app that is connected to the Deck device. Maria gets updates in real time directly on her phone and Smartvatch.
"Now that she has her girlfriend, we do not have to hit her at 10:30 or more in the morning," Maria said as she read the update on her smart glass about Ellie.
Maria stays with Ellie at the preschool, because she is the only one who allowed Ellie to give her insulin injections and, if necessary, to kick the glucagon, in case she has an extremely low level.
Coordinator for Preschool School St. Andrew Carol Carnegie said it was a learning experience for teachers and students. But Ellie did a great job to be open about her condition with an equally sterling attitude, said Carnegie.
"She is very aware of everything, and she is not a shy kid," she said.
Ellie will be supervised by a nurse when she eventually enrolls in the elementary school of Florence Bovser. Maria is still concerned when she completes the honeymoon phase, the time period when type 1 diabetics are still able to produce enough insulin to alleviate some of the drug's needs and add blood glucose control.
But the optimist is in view of her daughter's future thanks to technological advancement and continually learning more about the disease – not to mention the encouragement Ellie receives from her friends every school day.
"All of you are my best friends," said Ellie with her hands open to her meetings at the art and craft table.