Not quite two years ago Autumn Strecker of Hillsboro, now 13, was tired, grumpy, and always hungry.
“I just thought it was because she was working so hard at volleyball practice,” her mother Jeri Strecker said. “She had just started school as a sixth grader in junior high at Goessel and was going through a lot of changes.”
It was not until Autumn’s mother noticed that she was rapidly losing weight that she became really concerned about her daughter’s health.
“She has always been a skinny Minnie,” Strecker said. “But when I weighed her and she was only 68 pounds I became frantic. I knew something was wrong.”
Strecker made an appointment with Autumn’s regular doctor, and that day, Sept. 15, 2010, became a turning point in their lives.
“I remember I was always very hungry,” Autumn said. “That day we went in for an appointment to check my weight and as soon as they saw me, they checked my blood sugar.”
Autumn’s blood sugar registered at a highly dangerous level — 526, and nurses rushed her into an intensive care unit immediately.
“It all happened so fast. We were so scared,” her mother said. “The nurses told me she could have died with her blood sugar at that level. We just didn’t know.”
After spending several days in ICU and then a week or so in the hospital, Strecker came home to rest, recover, and begin a whole new way of life.
“I have to check my blood sugar levels at least five times a day,” Autumn said. “I have this little device that I push a button on and it pokes my finger. Sometimes it hurts.”
Autumn squeezes a drop of her blood onto a glucometer strip and it gives her a digital reading.
“I should be around 70 to 150,” she said. “I can always tell before I check how it is going to turn out. If my blood sugar levels are too high, I get really bad headaches and start yelling at people for no reason.”
She said that low blood sugar levels made her feel very shaky and sweaty. Often she also feels very hungry if her levels are too low.
“If my blood sugar checks too high, I have to drink lots of water,” she said. “If it is above 350 for too long, I have to go home and get some extra help.”
Autumn said that if her blood sugar levels were too low at school, she could change it by eating a cracker. If it went very low, she needed to snack on something sweet.
When she was first diagnosed with diabetic keto acidosis, Strecker missed several weeks of school. In order to go back to classes, she was required to be monitored by a licensed health official on the premises.
“We are so thankful that Mr. (Harold) Davis stepped up to help,” Jeri Strecker said. “He took some additional training and now serves as Autumn’s medical supervisor at school when she needs to take insulin or check her blood sugar levels.
Davis is also a special education teacher at USD 411.
Autumn, now a seventh-grader nearing the end of a fairly normal year, administers her own insulin with a pen-like contraption.
“I take Novolog during the day if I need something fast-acting,” she said. “At nighttime I take Lantus, which is a slow-acting insulin.”
Jeri Strecker said that if Autumn did not take additional insulin her body would try to remove the sugar it needed from her organs, creating a very dangerous situation for her.
“It’s been a tough couple of years for her,” she said. “But I am so proud of Autumn. Even though she missed 10 days of school just this last semester because of illness, she still pulled a 4.0 grade point average. She is doing very well with all of this.”
Autumn said she will likely have to live with diabetes for the rest of her life unless a cure is developed.
“I just have to be careful when and what I eat and make sure I check my blood sugar levels,” she said. “Other than that, I can pretty much do the activities I want.”
Autumn said she did not know of any other family members with the disease. Her mother said there were no indications why it struck her daughter, she is just glad they found health officials who knew how to save her daughter’s life and help them deal with the situation.