Hannah Davis is a kind, smart, busy 12-year-old. She’s involved in student government and reads to kindergarteners as an Honor Society volunteer. Hannah is definitely the type of person to take action and help others. Her biggest challenge yet is helping turn type one into type none.
Hannah is the youth ambassador for the JDRF South Sound Walk to Cure at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium on May 10. She stepped up to take this role to educate people, raise vital research funds and share the story of her life with type 1 diabetes (T1D) since her diagnosis two years ago.
T1D is a complex illness. During an immune system attack, the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone vital to turning food into energy. People with T1D must inject insulin throughout the day in order to stay alive. Unlike type 2 diabetes, its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. As of today, T1D can’t be prevented or cured. Hannah is one of thousands of adults and children in our state living with this debilitating disease.
Hannah’s road to T1D began in fifth grade, when her family and teachers noticed that her health was off. She was tired, irritable and lost weight over a few months. Symptoms of T1D onset can be mistaken for the flu or, in Hannah’s case, the developmental changes as children become tweens and teens.
After a visit to her doctor, the Davis family was shocked to learn that type 1 diabetes was the culprit. As an infant, Hannah had taken part in a diabetes study at her pediatrician’s office. Her mother Katie was informed that she had a pre-marker for T1D. That genetic predisposition was the reason she wasn’t feeling well more than a decade later. “I was mostly in shock and scared,” recalled Hannah, “and I didn’t know anything about diabetes.”
Katie was stunned. She recalled the gut-wrenching experience of hearing the doctor’s very practical, but heartbreaking advice for her 10-year-old daughter. “He said, ‘You have to take care of yourself or else you’ll be back here in the hospital much sicker. Your mom and dad can help, but YOU have to take this seriously.’”
Katie and Hannah took those words to heart and started experimenting with different situations to achieve stable hourly management of Hannah’s T1D. “We can’t be afraid of everything,” said Katie. “We have to go out into the world and figure it out. Go to restaurants, have sleepovers and try things that scare us. Hannah’s doctor said you have to do your best to control it - and roll with it.”
After Hannah’s diagnosis, the family turned to the JDRF South Sound Council and became active participants in the fight to end T1D. JDRF funds global research for people of all ages and all stages of the disease. Scientists are focused on research to make life healthier and easier and reduce complications for those with the disease, prevent T1D, and eventually find a cure for Hannah and millions of others around the world who live with T1D.
Cue to two years later and the resilient 12-year-old from Tacoma has a great attitude about living with T1D. “Now I know there’s nothing to be afraid of. After a month or two, it just blended in with my lifestyle. I really want people to know that having T1D doesn’t limit me.”
But Hannah is ready to live without the daily struggles of T1D. “A cure would mean the world to me. It’s so hard in the beginning. It would be great to know that other people wouldn't have to constantly check their blood sugar, give themselves shots and change infusion sites.”
“There is so much new research and I truly believe we will find a cure in my lifetime or at least prevent T1D from happening,” she said. That’s why she’ll be at the starting line for the Tacoma walk. “I’m walking to find a cure and raise money. More money will pay for more research. And I’ll keep walking until we have a cure.”
Register or donate and join Hannah’s family and hundreds of others touched by T1D at the South Sound Walk to Cure on May 10. It’s a big step toward turning type one into type none.
South Sound Walk:
May 10th – Cheney Stadium, 7:30 am
May 18th – Husky Stadium, 6:45 am