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The Girl Who Won’t Back Down From Type 1 Diabetes

Photos: Courtesy of The Butler Family

My daughter Gia was playing organized sports for the first time. A leading scorer in basketball like her dad, a 14-year NBA veteran, she was excited to play. 

Until there was a change.  

Gia was lethargic. She vomited every day, had an unquenchable thirst, and started wetting the bed. This continued for a couple of weeks. I thought she was simply fending off a bug.

But one day, her teacher suggested that something more serious might be happening.  

The day prior, Gia had been crying in class. She never cried. I shared her symptoms with her teacher, who told me they were similar to those her son had experienced when he was Gia’s age.  

That’s when she asked if Gia had ever had a glucose test. I recalled they had not given the test during her last physical. When we lived in other states, glucose tests had been a standard part of the physical. Now, residing in California, I learned you have to request the test. I made a same-day appointment for Gia to have one. 

A day to never forget

It was March 1, 2019. I sat in the doctor’s office with Gia. After a single finger prick, the doctor’s alarm echoed through the door. Gia needed to be rushed to the E.R. and administered intravenous fluids right away. 

Confused, I asked, “Why?” That’s when her doctor broke the news: Gia had Type 1 diabetes (T1D) and she was in ketosis — a life-threatening condition if not addressed immediately. 

My heart sank. How could I have forgotten my mother’s sister, who suffered numerous finger pricks and trips to the hospital? She was diagnosed with T1D as a teenager. At that moment, I knew Gia would live with the burden of T1D, just like my aunt. 

Thriving in the face of T1D

After Gia’s diagnosis, our family rallied to support her. The first challenge was understanding T1D and how to manage it. JDRF is a font of information on how to live with T1D, including what kinds of treatment choices are available. 

Initially, we used an insulin pen and did manual finger pricks. Now, Gia has the Dexcom G6 and an Omnipod, which we all love. It eliminates so many tears from finger-pricking multiple times a day.

March 2020 marked Gia’s one-year “diaversary” — just in time for the start of the pandemic. 

At times, I have been sleep-deprived with worry as Gia’s telemedicine appointments do not offer regular A1C checks. 

These tests tell you what someone’s average blood sugar levels are from the past two to three months, which is one indication of how well-managed someone’s T1D is.  

Without these, we’re uncertain as to how successfully we are managing her T1D. However, I love homeschooling because I can closely monitor her blood sugar levels every day.

Gia misses her friends at school and her old routine but she enjoys riding bikes, swimming, and shooting hoops with her dad and sisters more often. She has also become a social media expert, discovering her love for storytelling about her T1D journey on Instagram.

The silver lining

Gia is the strongest person in our family.  Despite the daily burdens of T1D and the pandemic, she wakes up every morning with a wide, toothy smile. As a family, we couldn’t be prouder of her strength.

In JDRF, we found community. We have connected with other T1D families who support us in our journey and newly diagnosed families seeking reassurance that their child can still live a full, robust life — like Gia.  

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