Local girl tapped for diabetes event | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | May 20, 2017 5:00 am
Last Updated: May 17, 2017 at 12:27 pm
By JULIE HOFF
Cameron Shephard has Type 1 juvenile diabetes, but it doesn’t have her.
She tackles the disease with matter-of-fact confidence, and has since she was diagnosed at age 7.
Cameron, now 13, is the daughter of David and Lisa Shephard of Givhans. Lisa is a nurse at Colleton Medical Center.
“There’s no family medical history [of diabetes] whatsoever, as far back as we know,” Lisa said. Cameron has two older brothers, Kaleb and Blake, neither of whom has diabetes.
Cameron, who attends Gregg Middle School in Summerville, doesn’t let the disease slow her down. She’s maintained a place on the honor roll while taking advanced classes in elementary and middle school. She’s in the Gifted And Talented Education (GATE) program and a member of the Junior Beta Club. She plays tennis at Gregg, “and I like to play outside with my brother Blake — basketball or football,” she said.
In the six years since her diagnosis, Cameron has had more than 15,000 needle injections and eight hypoglycemic seizures, Lisa said.
Counting carbs and testing her blood sugar several times a day is just a fact of life, and she doesn’t complain.
“She does great with it. She never lets it get her down,” Lisa said
“I don’t really remember before [the diagnosis],” Cameron said. “It’s just my life.”
Lisa became an advocate for diabetes research and education. She and Cameron met with Congressmen James E. Clyburn and Mark Sanford and participated in a 100-mile fundraising bike ride to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. In addition, Cameron has organized a JDRF Walk Team for five years.
Now Cameron has been selected to represent South Carolina in the JDRF Children’s Congress this summer in Washington, D.C. Approximately 1,500 youths applied for 155 slots, Lisa said. Two other S.C. delegates, from Greenville and Columbia, were also selected.
“They fill out an application and write a letter to their congressman, and they look at their grades and any work they’ve done to support advocacy and research,” Lisa said.
During the Congress, which is held every other year, kids learn leadership skills, make friends and talk to elected leaders about the importance of government funding for juvenile diabetes research.
Cameron began to exhibit classic symptoms of the disease at age six. “She was drinking a lot of fluids and having to use the bathroom constantly. Then she started getting extremely sleepy… we were in denial,” Lisa said.
They went to Dr. Benjamin Rogers at Edisto Pediatrics, “and I packed a suitcase for her before we even left. I knew she wasn’t coming back home that night,” Lisa said. When Cameron was weighed, her parents realized how much weight she’d lost. And her blood sugar was over 800 — dangerously high.
Rogers sent the family to the Medical University of South Carolina, where Cameron quickly learned the routines associated with her disease.
“Before we even left the hospital she was able to stick her own finger and get her blood sugar numbers,” Lisa said.
Today Cameron checks her blood sugar three or four times a day. She wears a device called a CGM, a continuous glucose monitor, which downloads her blood sugar levels every five minutes to her phone.
“Every three or four days, we have to change the insulin pump to a new site, and once a week we change CGM sites,” Lisa said. “The pump constantly infuses insulin 24 hours a day. It tells her if she needs insulin or not. When she eats, she has to count how many carbs she’s eating and she has to enter those numbers into the pump.”
None of it fazes Cameron. She’s focused on two things: Finding a cure for those who have been diagnosed, and early diagnosis for those who have it.
“We are very proud of Cameron for being selected to represent our state, and of how well she lives with this chronic disease that has no days off,” Lisa said.