Diagnosed at age two, Brooke Chapman has battled type 1 diabetes for more than 10 years.

Brooke, Patient

A recent switch from insulin shots to an insulin pump has changed Brooke’s life, allowing her to continue playing softball and be a normal teenager with less stress and worry. Attending Bronson Diabetes Education Center helped Brooke and her family adjust to daily life.

Brooke Chapman of Portage is an active 13-year-old who loves to play softball. For Brooke, shots and finger pokes are a way of life. She has never been shy about her type 1 diabetes. Brooke’s mom Haven Essenmacher remembers when her daughter was diagnosed in November 1999, just after they celebrated Thanksgiving. “It came as quite a shock. It was mind-numbing for us, actually. We have no family history of diabetes.” Brooke was only 2 ½ when she was diagnosed. “She was so young, so it’s kind of good that she doesn’t remember living any other way.”

While the family is open about the disease and gladly educates others, regulating Brooke’s insulin has not always been easy. It has been particularly challenging over the last couple of years with Brooke playing softball and her changing body. “She would go either high or low after exercise so we were struggling with insulin pens and balancing both short and long acting insulin shots,” Haven says. “She also was just being a teenager and not testing herself enough. Who wants to give themself eight shots a day?”

Daily life changed for Brooke in the summer of 2010 when she was able to switch from insulin shots to an insulin pump that continuously regulates her blood sugar level. “It has been a God-send,” Haven says. “The pump has really simplified things for us and we are back on track.”

Switching to the pump was a big change to the family’s routine, so Brooke’s doctor referred her to the Bronson Diabetes and Endocrinology Center. The center offers individual instruction, group classes, support groups and more to give patients and their families the knowledge and skills needed to manage all stages of diabetes.“

It was such a good experience for us. We went to the classes and it was so interesting to talk to parents with kids who were younger, to listen to how they did things. The educators were also wonderful. It felt good just to be reassured and to get information that we could bring home with us,” Haven says. “The educators are also always available even after the classes end. I can call with questions and they have called us several times to check in with us. It’s great, open communication.”

Brooke’s switch to the pump has been a success. Her HbA1C (a test that measures a person’s average blood glucose level over the past few months) levels have gone down significantly. “She has so much more control over her diabetes.”

Haven recommends the Bronson Diabetes Education Center to other families living with diabetes. “It’s all about information and learning from as many people as you can. It’s so important to educate yourself and the diabetes educators at Bronson are there for you.”

Brooke’s stepdad is in the military, so the family will be moving out of the state next summer. “We have had such a great experience at Bronson, I am a little bit nervous about moving,” Haven says. “But we have some good recommendations for new care after we move.” Haven says she is also reassured that Brooke has been trained so well by the diabetes educators at Bronson to be hands-on with her disease. “She really knows how to take care of herself.”

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