Gracee Brickhouse, merely 4 years old, still understands she’s got a tough challenge each day.
“My diabetes, I have a pump and if I have something that’s not free [of carbs] I have to check my finger,” Gracee said Saturday, May 8, as her parents, David and Shalinka Brickhouse, hosted a Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation fundraiser, Family Fun Fair, at Prodigal Primary Care, 10904 Kingston Pike.
“If something’s free I don’t have to check my finger.”
Gracee’s challenges began in September 2007.
‘she was 18-months old, and I though she had just a regular virus – but it kept progressing and getting worse,- said Shalinka, co-owner at Prodigal with David, the clinic’s physician assistant in charge of general practice family care.
“We ended up at Children’s Hospital … almost in a diabetic coma” requiring an IV “in a bone in her leg. She was in ICU for, like, four days.”
“When we were in Children’s Hospital, when I saw the look on the doctors” faces, and they were scared, that’s when my stomach dropped,” Shalinka added, pointing out doctors failed four times attempting to insert the IV into the bone before success.
“When they were looking around frantic, that’s when I got frantic. I remember having the conscious thought, “I’m not going to take my baby home.”
When the doctors diagnosed diabetes, “I remember thinking that I didn’t think diabetes was that serious of a disease at that point,” Shalinka said. “In my head I thought, ‘that’s something we can control.”
Gracee has had ‘several seizures’ since the diagnosis – mostly at night according to her mother – but those have decreased since she started using an insulin pump about two years ago.
The pump delivers a more precise amount of insulin, Shalinka said.
However, the last seizure that occurred on Christmas Day was “probably the worst one we’ve had to date,” Shalinka said. “We had to end up calling an ambulance.”
Through it all, “Nothing is without some good in it, and without a reason,” Shalinka said. “It breaks my heart for her sometimes, but I think in the big picture she’ll be a better person for it.”
Among the modern advancements accelerated through JDRF is a continuous glucose monitor, something the Brickhouses still are seeking to obtain for Gracee.
Injected, “It goes underneath her skin … at it takes her blood sugar every three minutes,” Shalinka said. “If she were sleeping and [blood sugar level] started dropping low, it would beep to alert us. … That could cut the seizures out completely.
‘that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing today,” Shalinka added. “Every child deserves the best technology out there to battle this disease.”
Preparing for the annual JDRF fundraising Walk to Cure Diabetes in May. Shalinka plus family – including sons Briar, 14, and Garrett, 9 – and friends, some 20 strong, have formed “Gracee’s Guardians” walking team.
“We’re trying to raise $5,000 for our team,” Shalinka said.
David, referring to Prodigal as a “family business” that has been open since February, is medically trained as a U.S. Army veteran who attained the rank of captain during 11 years of service. He served two tours in Iraq as medical director of more than 2,000 soldiers.
“What we’ve learned, me especially, is the severity of the disease and how it’s affected everyone’s life associated with our daughter, especially her,” he said. ‘the time it takes to actually feed her. You have to test her before she eats. You have to count the carbs. … You have to calculate everything throughout the day.
“You have to worry about, in the middle of the night, is she going to have a significant low [reading] and go into seizures,” he added.
Gracee said “eggs and cheese,” along with meat and other proteins, are “free” of carbs and therefore treats Gracee can enjoy in larger portions.
“My favorite treats are waffles and cupcakes and muffins,” Gracee added, with David adding she can, once or twice a week, have a very small portion of such ‘treats.”
Family Fun Fair included an indoor trampoline, various games, face painting, lots of food and drink and an appearance from Rural Metro firefighters.