Sarah Lynne Keith is one of the approximately 13,000 children in the United States each year who are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
“With type 1 diabetes, the end result is that you are incapable of making insulin. The cells in the pancreas that make insulin have been completely destroyed and you can make no insulin on your own,” said Dr. Mary Lauren Scott, Sarah Lynne’s endocrinologist at Children’s of Alabama.
In the spring of 2010, Theresa Keith noticed that 3-year-old Sarah Lynne was showing one of the warning symptoms of diabetes. “We were at the YMCA and the young girl who was keeping her told me that Sarah Lynne had been very thirsty. Something in the way she said it made me think something was not right. My dad has diabetes and so we used his monitor to check her blood sugar and it read high,” Keith said. Her pediatrician referred Sarah Lynne to Children’s where she spent several days as an inpatient while the Keiths received education to help them manage her diabetes.
“The educators come and see you in the hospital and they give you a direct line to call them. We used that a good bit in the first days because we had to make changes in her insulin. They’ve been wonderful in every department we’ve been to, so kind and helpful,” Keith said.
Sarah Lynne’s referral to Children’s for her diabetes was not the Keith’s first experience with Children’s. When she was just 18-months-old, Sarah Lynne was treated by otolaryngologist Dr. Audi Woolley for a hemangioma or growth of blood vessels in her inner ear. “He was able to remove it doing laser surgery. We went to the Audiology Clinic at Children’s to be fitted for a hearing aid, but she ended up losing all the hearing in her left ear,” Keith said.
As part of her routine diabetes follow-up care, Sarah Lynne’s blood was screened for several other conditions that can be found in children with type 1 diabetes. “We generally screen for other autoimmune diseases that can happen with type 1 diabetes like celiac disease and hypothyroidism,” Scott said.
Test results indicated that Sarah Lynne had celiac disease, a digestive disorder that damages the small intestine and interferes with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley and must monitor their diets carefully to avoid foods containing gluten.
It was during another follow-up visit with Dr. Scott that her mother mentioned Sarah Lynne had developed a rash. After a consultation with Children’s dermatologist Dr. Amy Theos, Sarah Lynne was diagnosed with a third autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis. Dermatomyositis causes a rash and muscle inflammation that results in weak muscles.
Now 6-years-old, Sarah Lynne is an active little girl who just started first grade and loves gymnastics, dancing and painting. Her diabetes is kept under control by the insulin pump she wears; she follows a gluten-free diet and takes medications to bring her dermatomyositis into remission.
“Sarah Lynne is just a bubbly kid you can’t keep down. She has been faced with several setbacks and challenges. She takes everything in stride and deals with it as best she can. Our goal for any of her illnesses is to teach her to care for them as best she can and continue to be a happy, playful little girl,” Scott says.
“I’ve never heard her complain,” her mother said. “She really is an inspiration to a lot of people because she is so carefree and happy. She has all these things going on and she’s running everywhere she goes with a big smile on her face.”