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7-year-old is excelling in spite of diabetes

Brooke Wardlow likes to dance and play. Sometimes, though, she has to stop and check her blood sugar..

By LOGAN NEILL

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 9, 2000


Brooke Wardlow considers herself a pretty normal 7-year-old. Like many of her second-grade peers at Chocachatti Elementary School, she is active in sports, takes dance lessons and enjoys being outdoors as much as possible.

But sometimes, Brooke gets reminded of the fact that she doesn't enjoy such a normal life. She can tell things aren't right when she begins feeling tired. Her stomach may start to hurt, too, or she might get a bit dizzy. These are the warning signs that Brooke's blood sugar level is out of kilter.

When that happens, she immediately excuses herself to her teacher's office, where she performs a simple finger-prick test that all people with diabetes must learn to do.

Most of the time, if the blood sugar reading is high, Brooke can control the symptoms by simply running the stairs outside her classroom a few times. That will usually burn off the excess sugar. On rare occasions, running is not enough, so she may seek further medical attention.

"I've learned to live with it just about my whole life," said the soft-spoken second-grader, who learned she had the disease when she was 4.

Though having juvenile diabetes might make Brooke different in the eyes of some of her classmates, she insists that she really isn't. In fact, she goes out of her way to show the pupils in Renee Golz's class that diabetes does not slow her down.

"The thing is, not everyone knows she is diabetic," Golz said. "Brooke tells them if they ask, but I think by showing them that she's no different is a way of saying that she has learned to overcome any obstacles it may have brought to her life."

Golz considers Brooke a model student. She makes straight As in every subject and reads at a fifth-grade level. In addition, she is eager to help classmates with their work.

"She is such a positive, easygoing person," Golz said. "I think she has shown the kids that a good attitude can help them get through any challenge."

While Brooke's disease hasn't prevented her from the kind of physical activities she loves, including gymnastics, soccer and dance, she does have to watch her diet.

At friends' birthday parties, she must forgo cake and ice cream, except in very small amounts. Lunch at school is frequently salad (with no dressing), plus plenty of water.

She gives herself twice-daily insulin shots at home and must take regular readings with a computerized monitor to see if her blood sugar level is within limits.

"You have to learn a lot when you have (diabetes) so that you can take care of yourself," Brooke said.

Brooke is hopeful that someday she won't have to perform her daily regimen.

"A cure would be great," she said. But not just because of her own plight, she insists.

"There are so many other people who have diabetes," Brooke said."It would be great for everyone."

NAME: Brooke Wardlow

AGE: 7

SCHOOL: Chocachatti Elementary School

PARENTS: Rob and Tricia Wardlow

HOBBIES: soccer, dance and gymnastics

FAVORITE SUBJECT: math

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