Diabetes doesn’t slow down multi-sport ten-year-old

Diabetes doesn’t slow down multi-sport ten-year-old

When you look at Presley Wolfe today, an active ten-year-old who lives in Pocatello with her mom, dad and five siblings, you see the same smiling athlete pictured in the photos above.

But it wasn’t too long ago when Presley was a very sick six-year-old with Type 1 diabetes, pictured below, battling to wake from a diabetic coma.

“At the time, we didn’t know anything about diabetes and what should be a regular blood sugar level,” said Neely Wolfe, Presley’s mother. “But fortunately, the team of physicians and diabetes educators at Portneuf Medical Center helped Presley recover and taught us how to manage her diabetes.”

Unexpected hospital visit

“When Presley was six, I remember that she was sick with a cold in November,” said Neely. “It was like every other November when someone in our big family has a sore throat or a virus and passes it along to the next family member. That was also the time when we purchased a new house and were spending our evenings renovating it, so we were very busy.”

By Christmas, Presley still couldn’t shake the cold that she had had for weeks.

“One week she would be fine and then the next she would be lethargic,” said Neely. “I remember her telling me, ‘Mom, I drank three bottles of water this morning.’ I didn’t know anything about diabetes, such as when high levels of glucose in your blood system make you feel thirsty because your brain wants you to drink more and flush the glucose out of your kidneys. I just said, ‘Good job, Presley.’”

By the middle of January, Presley wasn’t doing well at all. “One night, I put her on the floor next to my bed. She was moaning and I would ask what she needed. Suddenly, it was like she wasn’t there at all. She didn’t recognize me or respond to me. My stomach just plummeted we carried her to the car and my husband rushed us to the hospital.”

When they entered the ER at Portneuf Medical Center, the physicians in charge quickly examined Presley and smelled her breath. Patients with fruity/sweet-smelling breath may have diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious and potentially life-threatening complication of diabetes. Presley was quickly admitted, as her blood sugar level was extremely high at 702.

Neely and her husband stayed with Presley all night, watching her breathing as IV fluids combined with small, consistent amounts of insulin in her veins.

By mid-morning the next day, Presley woke up and said she had to go to the bathroom, which was very good news for everyone. After spending a couple more days in the hospital, the family prepared to go home with information about Type 1 diabetes from the diabetes education team.

Type 1 diabetes

Diabetes is one of many autoimmune diseases that occur when the body's natural defense system can't tell the difference between normal cells and foreign cells, causing the body to mistakenly attack normal cells.

With Type 1 diabetes, the body's immune system attacks all the cells in the pancreas that make the hormone called insulin. With Type 2 diabetes, the immune system attacks some of the cells in the pancreas, making it produce less insulin than a healthy pancreas.

Cells need energy to function properly, so the body can convert food into glucose (sugar), which travels through the blood system to cells. There it is supposed to work together with insulin to help cells absorb sugar and be energized to work properly.

When the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, too much sugar stays in the blood, which can cause diabetes and kidney damage.

To replenish the insulin not produced naturally by the pancreas, people must monitor the level of sugar in their blood system. If the level is high, insulin needs to be added to the blood system (by injection or by a pump) to help convert sugar into usable energy. If the blood sugar level is low, more sugar is needed, often found in carbohydrates, to balance the blood sugar levels properly.

If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, your healthcare provider will advise you on your ideal blood sugar level, considering your age, existing conditions and activity levels.

Diabetes Education Team

Diabetes educator Annie Mowrey

Fortunately for Presley and the entire family, Annie Mowrey, a registered nurse and a certified diabetes care and education specialist, was on staff at Portneuf Medical Center to teach the family what they needed to know.

“When I meet with a new family with a pediatric diabetes patient,” said Annie, “I concentrate on teaching them three main points:”

  • Survival Skills – The concepts and skills the family needs to know to keep their child safe and out of the hospital.
  • Confidence in caring for their child – We review all the skills and components they need to ensure they can confidently care for their child at home.
  • Hope – They must remain hopeful because diabetes will not limit their dreams for the child’s future (only a few military and aviation industry jobs restrict some candidates because of diabetes).

“Presley and her parents learned the concepts quickly,” recalled Annie. “Most families need two days of teaching so they can care for their child at home. This family was exceptional in quickly learning and assimilating the concepts.”

Annie recalled that Presley is an especially fast learner. “Presley has such a spunky, fun and thoughtful personality,” she said. “When I asked about Presley’s interests, we quickly discovered that we had a common love of horses. When she was feeling better, she enjoyed traveling to my home and meeting my horses.”

Presley’s self-care

Like most people with diabetes, Presley learned how to make plans to safely maintain a healthy blood sugar level, even while participating in the strenuous sports and activities that she enjoys.

“Presley is wise beyond her years,” said her mother, Neely. “She came home from the hospital at age six testing her own sugars and everyone else’s. Annie and the staff did a great job talking at her level and helping her take responsibility for everything. Now that she has the Dexcom glucose meter tied to her insulin pump, she can manage her own blood sugar levels easily.”

Wherever Presley goes, she carries a kit that includes a glucometer to measure her levels, alcohol pads to clean skin areas, Airhead candies in case her level drops very low, a BAQSIMI® device and a couple of protein bars. Before she plays a game or practices, she always checks her blood sugar level and determines if she should eat something or not.

“Presley is really good at reading her own body,” said Neely, “so she can feel if her sugars are dropping, even if her device may not be grading the level accurately. She will just run over to prick her finger to get an accurate blood sugar reading and then go from there.”

Paying it forward

Looking back to when Presley was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in the hospital, Neely had a very special encounter.

“One of my mother’s friends, whose son had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a baby, just showed up at the hospital one day,” recalled Neely. “I didn’t know her at all, but she had heard of Presley’s diagnosis. She walked up to our room, introduced herself, asked questions, and listened to everything I had to say. At the end of her visit, she hugged me and said that she was always available in case I had more questions. I did and called her a lot!”

Neely learned of a Type 1 diabetes group on Facebook for parents, so she joined that group and found many other parents with the same experiences.

“Whenever I meet the parent of a newly diagnosed diabetes patient, I do the same thing and give them my time and attention. I give them my number and tell them about the Facebook group,” she said. “I wish everyone could have an ‘Annie’ to help them navigate this disease because it’s hard without the right support. I am so glad we were blessed with a great team to help care for Presley.”

To read more about Portneuf Medical Center’s Diabetes Education Program, give us a call at 208-239-2070 or visit our website.