Middletown student selected to attend national event in Washington, D.C.

By Christopher Kersey

chris.kersey@doverpost.com

Brynn Palmer, when she was 3 years old, found herself in an emergency.

She passed out while she was on a small field trip from the Appoquinimink Early Childhood Center to the Volunteer Hose Company of Middletown.

“We got there and a few minutes later, passed out,” Brynn said.

Brynn has type-one diabetes and was suffering from low blood sugar. That happens when the diabetes medication pushes down the sugar level too fast and too much.

Fortunately, there was a nurse, Aimee Hastings, with Brynn from the childhood center. Brynn was unresponsive, but Hastings acted quickly, giving her a glucose injection which revived her.

Today, Brynn is 6 years old and will.be a first grader at Cedar Lane Elementary School this fall.

Her struggle between too much sugar in the blood or not enough is daily. But there is hope and Brynn will be part of trying to find that solution.

She will be attending the Children’s Congress, held by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation July 24-26, in Washington, D.C. It brings together nearly 160 children with type-one diabetes, ages 4 to 17, representing all 50 states.

Brynn is the only one representing Delaware and was chosen from 1,300 applicants nationwide to attend the Children’s Congress. She will meet Delaware’s Congressional delegation and attend hearings.

The goal of the event is to raise awareness about type-one diabetes and the importance of Congressional support in advancing research that will result in better treatments, prevention, and, one day, a world without the disease.

Even though she’s so young, Brynn, her family, and her school team have their share of battles to tell people and raise awareness about the life-long disease.

When Brynn was 2 years old, she was diagnosed with type-one diabetes. She was potty trained by that age, but had bathroom problems and had excess thirst. At first, her family chalked it up to the holiday, but then called a doctor’s office.

Surprisingly, pediatricians don’t routinely test for diabetes. It doesn’t run in Brynn’s family. Neither her parents nor three other siblings have it.

After several blood tests, Brynn was diagnosed with it and was admitted the Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. She was there for a week and the family went on a crash course on diabetes to learn how to treat her.

In the first year of diagnosis, she was injected with insulin using pre-filled syringes, but in the second year, she was given a pump which regularly shoots insulin into her system.

At certain times, the pump shoots more insulin into her body when programmed with certain information--the latest stick results and the estimated amount of carbohydrates she’s about to eat.

To make the insulin go into her body, she has two suction cups with needles attached to one arm which is connected to the pump. The other arm has a monitor attached to it to regularly keep track of blood sugar.

Her mother, Bridget, said her daughter’s life is different for a child her age at school.

“She can’t be on a regiment eating schedule. If her sugar level is too low, she’ll have to go to the nurse and have a snack,” Bridget said.

This disrupts her education at school.

“It’s hard for her to go school and be there all day like present in every class and not interrupted if she has to leave” to get a snack or get insulin, Bridget said.

At school, she must get her first finger stick blood sample so they know her numbers. At lunch, all the food is marked with carbohydrate numbers, and she must eat everything or else she’ll have a low blood sugar problem. So, if she doesn’t want the rest of her lunch, she’ll have to eat something else to compensate.

And for gym class or recess, she may need to eat ahead of time because the activity will bring down her sugar levels.

At home, her mother must keep diabetes supplies in a bag with her at all times. A full night’s sleep is impossible for Brynn and her mother because Brynn must be checked every three hours.

“There’s never a break,” said Bridget. “It cannot be prevented. There is no cure. That’s why we are so involved in JDRF. Right now, I really feel with enough advocacy and support that we can find a cure in her lifetime.”

So far, Brynn remains cheerful. She doesn’t like the fact she can’t eat like her three other siblings. But she doesn’t mind the finger sticks so much, which is a fact that caught the attention of the nurse at Cedar Lane Early Childhood Center.

Stephanie Balascio, the nurse, said she helped Brynn with her diabetes management during the school day.

“Brynn is a superstar and she never ever complained about finger sticks and all the other not so fun stuff that comes with her diagnosis,” Balascio said.

“In fact, she even consoled another student who was scared after she saw Brynn getting a finger stick. Brynn [is] a great friend to her classmates and loved her teacher.”