Family discovers, adjusts to a 'new normal' with diabetes
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Wednesday, Sep. 08, 2010

Family discovers, adjusts to a 'new normal' with diabetes

Condition doesn't slow down 5-year-old

  • Stacey Simms will sign copies of her book, "I Can't Cook, But I Know Someone Who Can," at the Time Warner BBQ & Blues event Sept. 11 in uptown Charlotte. The book features 25 Charlotte chefs, 70 recipes and stories of Simms' many kitchen disasters. Profits benefit Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation of Charlotte.

Many people know Stacey Simms.

They recognize her face from her days as an award-winning anchor and health reporter on WBTV or her voice from her gig each morning as a co-host on Charlotte Morning News on News Talk 1110 WBT.

But she has another occupation, one she considers even more important - mother of two.

So four years ago, when the Davidson resident's son, Benny, was 23 months old and diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Simms added one more job to her resume - crusader.

Since then, she's worked to raise both funds and awareness to help combat the disease as well as worked to create a happy balance for her family: Benny, husband Slade, and daughter Leah.

From her days as a health reporter, Simms joked that she knew "just enough to always be sick."

It was no laughing matter, however, when she noticed changes in Benny. Frequent trips to the bathroom, excessive thirstiness, fatigue and crankiness led her to bring him to the doctor, where they performed a fasting glucose test.

Though it came back normal, his blood work showed elevated sugar levels, and Benny was hospitalized for four days. "It was treated as an emergency situation," she recalled. "Many people don't realize that a hundred years ago, Type 1 diabetes was a death sentence.

"Insulin is really Benny's life support, and we're just very appreciative of the trailblazers before us and what they've done."

"In a strange way, we were relieved to have a diagnosis, but it was also devastating," said Simms, 38. "You're thrust into learning to care for your child in a way you never have before, and there's no learning curve those first few weeks; they were so challenging," Simms said.

The family adjusted as time went on, but the disease definitely created a "new normal" in their household. "The weighing, measuring, testing, weighing again, all that has become a normal part of Benny's life," said Simms.

She estimates that the routine adds about two hours on to their day.

Advice for other families dealing with diabetes?

"Everyone is different, and how you deal with it should be in accordance with what works for your family members, doctors and caregivers. We all strive for a happy, healthy balance."

Balance was what it was all about when Benny attended Camp Kudos, for Kids Understanding Diabetes With Our Support, in 2009 and this year. Started by Charlotte pediatric endocrinologist Mark Parker and run by volunteers, Benny was convinced last year to wear his medical alert bracelet, and this year to use his insulin pump independently, lessons especially important for the new kindergartener.

Despite her busy schedule, Simms carves out time to raising Type 1 diabetes awareness.

She compiled recipes and advice from some of the most well known chefs in Charlotte and published the cookbook "I Can't Cook, But I Know Someone Who Can," with all profits going to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

She also sits on the Board of Directors of the Charlotte chapter of the JDRF. For more information about how you can help, visit her blog at www.staceysimms.com.

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