BROOMFIELD, Colo. (CBS4) – The Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes is a world class research and care facility for Type 1 diabetes, and one family in particular is helping advance the technology caring for children with the disease.
There are four siblings in the Lee family: Olivia, 14; Audrey, 13; Owen, 9; and Ashton, 8. Of the four of them, three are living with Type 1 diabetes.
“As long as you take care of it OK, then you’ll be OK,” said Olivia Lee.
Olivia was diagnosed when she was just 7-months old. Ashton got his diagnosis at 15 months. Audrey developed the disease at age 8. Owen is the only one without it.
“We live it, we breathe it, we do 100 percent of our days thinking about it,” said mom, Heather Lee.
Type 1 diabetes is when the pancreas makes little or no insulin, a hormone needed for the body to process sugar into energy. Type 1 diabetics usually require injections of insulin to keep blood sugar levels regulated. Patients are plagued by sugar levels that go high and low with uncomfortable symptoms.
“You feel tired, and sweaty, and you want to just lay down, and you’re shaky. It’s a horrible feeling,” Audrey described what it’s like to have low blood sugar levels.
“You feel like you want to throw up, and you have to go to the bathroom all the time, and your throat gets like this itchy feeling like you need water all the time,” she said of what it feels like to have high blood sugar levels.
“Every time they put something in their mouth you have to calculate for it, so it’s a full time gig. There are no breaks,” said Steve Lee, the children’s father.
Technology is making those calculations easier for Type 1 diabetics.
“I have an insulin pump site on my leg, and I have a Dexcom G5 on my arm. And this sends my blood sugar to my phone and my mom’s phone,” Audrey said indicating the continuous glucose monitor on her arm.
Heather Lee monitors the levels for each of her kids, and can be quick with a juice or a piece of candy when the digits start to drop.
“Every single day we leave the house, we have to remember to take supplies,” she told CBS4.
The Lee children get their diabetes care at the Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes, one of the top centers in the world for diabetes care and research.
“We’re setting the standard for how people will be cared for in the future, not just applying what other people have come up with. We’re developing the new ways of doing things,” said Dr. Greg Forlenza, a clinical researcher at the Barbara Davis Center.
Each of the Lee children have participated in research studies at the Center, particularly testing new versions of the technology.
“We’ll wear it for a week or so and test it out, and they’ll check our numbers when we get back and see if it worked or not,” Audrey told CBS4.
“I think that’s great to be able to take something that little Audrey tells me about what she wants to see better for her care, apply it here, and then disseminate it to other centers,” said Forlenza.
“There’s some studies that we’ve done that are now FDA approved, and it’s like, ‘We had a part in that. Our kids got to help people with that,’” Heather Lee said.
The Lee family is making history in the world of Type 1 diabetes, and perfecting the art of being young.
The Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes gets much of its funding from the Children’s Diabetes Foundation. The Foundation is holding its Carousel Ball fundraiser on October 19, 2019. Country legend, Reba McEntire will be the featured performer. The annual Carousel Ball events have raised more than $110 million to improve the lives of those living with Type 1 diabetes.