Girl's juvenile diabetes changes perspective for militay family
By Kelly Deichert, Air University Public Affairs
/ Published June 24, 2011
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, AL --
Sometimes a child's voice can be the strongest.
When 9-year-old Abigail Davis headed to Washington, D.C., earlier this week, she carried a strong message - find a cure for diabetes. She joined more than 100 other children as a delegate during Children's Congress 2011.
Abigail is the daughter of Kimberly and Maj. Mark Davis, the dean of student affairs at the International Officer School.
The trip to D.C. is an important opportunity for Abigail to make a difference. "I want them to know about diabetes and help us find a cure," she said.
She is one of two Alabama delegates talking to U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, Alabama's 2nd Congressional District, and Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby.
As part of the application process, the Davises produced scrapbooks for the politicians, chronicling Abigail's life with type 1 diabetes.
They also recorded a video. Since Abigail wants to go to Auburn University, just like her mom, she invited Aubie the Tiger to co-star.
During their trip to Washington, D.C., Abigail and Mrs. Davis joined children and parents from around the country to raise awareness of diabetes and ask politicians for their support.
Abigail and the other children performed their anthem, "Promise to Remember Me," with Crystal Bowersox. Ms. Bowersox faced complications from diabetes while competing on "American Idol" in 2010.
Children's Congress has been held six times since 1999, bringing children ages 4 - 17 to Washington, D.C., to share their stories with government leaders.
Abigail was 18 months old when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and has learned to live with the disease. She has been on an insulin pump since she was 2.
The disease has had an impact on her family. Mrs. Davis was an active-duty Airman when Abigail was diagnosed. She was the element chief of pediatrics at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and her husband was deployed to Pakistan.
Mrs. Davis said she made the difficult decision to leave the Air Force. "Shortly after (diagnosis) I resigned and decided to become her own private nurse," she said. "It was a tough decision but one we had to make."
Despite Major Davis' frequent deployments, Mrs. Davis helps Abigail and her brother, Connor, who is almost 12, enjoy a normal childhood.
Abigail is an active child and doesn't let diabetes stand in her way. She enjoys swimming, softball, soccer and ballet. She also plays the piano.
"(During sports) we have to check her blood sugar more frequently," Mrs. Davis said.
Abigail won't let diabetes hold her back "I have big plans," she said. Abigail wants to become a veterinarian when she grows up.
Abigail knows she will have to monitor her insulin for the rest of her life. Mrs. Davis said Abigail needs her finger pricked seven to 10 times a day, a total of 27,050 times so far.
Patients with type 1 diabetes cannot outgrow it or eliminate it through lifestyle changes as can be done with type 2 diabetes.
There is no cure, but Abigail hopes to change this.
The Davises have already made a difference in diabetes awareness in Alabama.
Earlier this year, they met with Representative Roby to discuss clinical trials for a closed-loop insulin pump, which "tries to mimic how the pancreas works," Mrs. Davis said.
"She was wonderful," Mrs. Davis said. "She was very nice to Abby."
"She's my favorite," Abigail said.
The Davises also founded "Abigail's Answer," a team that participates in walks to find a cure for diabetes.
Inspired by her daughter's strength, Mrs. Davis hopes by increasing awareness in Alabama, the number of cases diagnosed will decline. She recently earned her master's degree in nursing from Auburn and completed her thesis on diabetes literacy in Alabama.
"I think if we don't address it now, we'll have more complications down the road," she said.