SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Over 1.25 million Americans live with type-1 diabetes, an auto-immune disease that causes the pancreas to stop producing insulin. An increasing number of children under the age of 20 are diagnosed with type-1 diabetes every year. One of those kids is Ellie Rowe, a Springfield-native who hopes to make the terrifying time of diagnosis just a little easier for new cases.
Rowe is 11 years old, and has quickly become an expert on handling her health and the spectrum of emotions that come with it.
“I remember when I was in third grade, I had no idea what was happening,” explained Rowe. “I had to learn stuff, I had to learn how to divide before my class.”
Calculating carbs at every meal, administering insulin, countless finger pricks to monitor blood sugar, and learning to be in-tune with the body are just a few of the lessons diabetics must learn to live a healthy life.
Rowe was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes after feelings of exhaustion and excessive thirst. She remembers her world turning upside down the moment the diagnosis came.
“I started to cry saying ‘I don’t understand what’s happening,’ and mom had to sit down and try to explain– even though she didn’t know too much about diabetes either,” recalled Rowe. Ellie is the first known case of type-1 diabetes in her family.
With the support of family and friends, Ellie has learned how to navigate a new lifestyle. Teachers and students at the Springfield Lutheran School where Ellie attends are aware of her condition and are able to recognize when she needs assistance.
“We’ve all learned from Ellie’s resilience and cheerfulness, and I think that there’s a certain optimism because she knows that we all have something in our lives, for her it’s diabetes,” said Ellie’s mom Megan Rowe.
This newfound responsibility has become the new normal for Ellie, even inspiring her to write about managing diabetes for a class assignment.
“My friends were like ‘you should do [a guide] on diabetes,’ and I started to think about it for a few minutes, and [thought] that wouldn’t be such a bad idea,” said Rowe.
The ABC Guide to Type 1 Diabetes is getting published. Rowe hopes that newly diagnosed children will find comfort in her words during the most challenging time of their lives.
“Part of why Ellie wrote the book is because she received [comfort] and was met with that at the time of her diagnosis,” recalled Megan Rowe.
Ellie’s word of advice for newly diagnosed diabetics is to rely on support systems, and to not be afraid to ask for help. “I mean sure this stuff is hard, but you have friends, family– people who can help you with this.”
The book is currently being edited and is expected to release in 2020.