|By Michelle Kealey|
WESTFIELD Fifteen-year- old Melissa Moulton, known as Missy to her friends and family, is a normal teenager an honor student at Westfield High School and a gymnast but something makes her a little different than her peers. She has type I diabetes.
While Missy leads a normal teenage life, she looks forward to attending the Clara Barton Diabetes Camp for Girls each summer, where she can be around other kids who understand what she is going through.
She has been attending the camp for the past two years and plans to go again this August with the help from the community.
The camp is $1,950 for a 12 day stay and her family has been hosting fund-raisers to help offset the cost of the camp.
Nancy Moulton, Missy's mother, said that the first year that Missy was diagnosed with diabetes, Missy and her family sent out letters to friends and family seeking donations to support them during the walk for diabetes, which raises funds for research.
She added that the next year, friends and family members said that they would like to donate money to something to directly benefit Missy.
Nancy said that she thought the camp fee would be a good donation and they collected $600 that year.
The family has been hosting a number of fund-raisers this year to help offset the costs of the camp.
They have hosted a flower and cookie sale, have been doing a can and bottle drive and are hosting a car wash at Wal-Mart in Westfield on July 9, which will begin at 9 a.m. and will last all day.
She explained that she doesn't have to tell her fellow campers how she is feeling when she is low because "they know."
According to Missy, the diabetes camp is just like any other camp in which the campers choose activities to do every day.
"It is a normal camp, but there are medical assistants and special [activities about] diabetes," she said.
For example, she said that there is an activity called the Diabetes Scoop, in which speakers come in and teach the campers about anything that has to do with diabetes.
She has made friends at camp and has kept in touch with many of them.
She added that she hopes to become a councilor in training for the camp next year.
Missy was diagnosed with the disease in 2002, after 1 1/2 years of visiting doctors and specialists trying to find a diagnosis for her symptoms, which included excessive thirst, frequent urination and feeling off balance.
Nancy explained that her daughter's symptoms could have been caused by a number of things.
She added that Missy visited a number of specialists, including a cardiologist and an ear nose and throat specialist.
"I had specialists telling me she was looking for attention," Nancy said.
Missy said that when she was diagnosed, the doctor had checked her blood sugar level and it was 633.
She explained that a normal blood sugar level is between 70 and 150.
"They admitted me to the hospital," she said. "I went home from the doctor and packed for Baystate."
Once at Baystate Medical Center, Missy said that the doctors gave her an I.V. with insulin to bring her blood sugar level down.
She was in the hospital for three days and she learned about her disease. She added that she had to visit an endocrinologist.
When Nancy learned that Missy had type I diabetes, she said she was relieved to finally have a diagnosis.
Jeff Moulton, Missy's father, said that it was hard when his daughter was first diagnosed.
Now, he said that the family is used to it.
"She is very accepting and knowledgeable about it," Nancy said about her daughter.
Nancy said Missy asked her two questions when she first learned about the diagnosis "Am I going to die and can I still do gymnastics?"
Nancy explained that Missy is insulin dependent and had to receive insulin injections for the first seven months after the diagnosis.
She added that it took Missy five months before she was able to give herself the shots.
Now, Missy wears an insulin pump, which makes dealing with the disease a little easier than using the injections.
Nancy said that the insurance company does not allow diabetics to use the pump until they are knowledgeable enough about the disease.
"[The pump] is a God send," Nancy said.
She explained that when using the insulin shots, Missy had to carefully monitor what she ate and could only eat a certain amount of foods.
With the pump, Missy said that she can eat basically whatever she wants and can adjust the amount of insulin she needs after she eats.
Missy said that she is "all over the place" with her insulin levels. She said that they can be too low or too high.
She said that when her blood sugar is too low, she will usually eat peanut butter on a slice of bread to try to get back up to a normal level.
She said that the sugar, fat and mostly the protein helps keep her level up.
When she is low, Missy said she need insulin.
She added that she tests her blood sugar level five or six times a day.
She explained that she pricks her finger and places a testing strip into her pump, which reads her blood sugar level.
She added that she knows when she is feeling up or down. She said that she can feel confused and once tried to place the testing strip into her cell phone instead of her insulin pump.
Missy said that it is "pretty difficult" dealing with her diabetes.
Nancy said that Missy has had three seizures since she was diagnosed, the most recent being last week.
Nancy said that she looked dazed and was twitching. She added that it took her about ten minutes to get her out of it.
She added that Missy's second seizure was the worst of the three.
"The second seizure was scary," Jeff said. "It was not fun."
He added that he still worries about his daughter, when she goes swimming, for example. "If she is ever alone and has a seizure," he said, she would be in trouble.
Nancy explained that during Missy's first seizure, her daughter was able to hear each word she was saying to her, but was unable to respond.
"I know what's going on," Missy said. "I wake up smiling."
Her sister, Kelli Moulton, said that she does not like to see her sister when she is having a seizure.
She added that she is glad she was not the one diagnosed with the disease because Missy is able to handle the disease better that she ever could.
Missy said that her brother, Brandon, did not like to watch her give herself injections or now when she has to insert the pump.
Missy said that most of her friends don't notice when she checks her blood sugar, but "some people stare at me."
Missy has permission to check her blood sugar levels in the classroom if she needs to and the school does not count it against her if she is late or misses school because of her diabetes.
Missy does not let the disease get in the way of her life. She has been doing gymnastics for about eight years and continues to do so. She is a member of the Westfield High School Gymnastics team and the greater Westfield YMCA team.
Nancy said that her YMCA gymnastics coach, Megan Wright, is wonderful with Missy.
She added that Bonnie Paulson, Missy's pediatric endocrinology nurse, has also been great to her daughter.
Nancy said that Paulson is not a diabetic, but she wore an insulin pump for a couple of days in order to better understand what her patients were going through.
She said that Missy hopes to either become an endocrinologist or diabetes educator when she is older.
"I want to work with with kids with diabetes," Missy said. "I think it will be fun."
She added that since she has diabetes, she will be able to relate to the children.
"I know what the pump feels like," she said.
Anyone who would like help Missy with her camp fees can send a donation directly to the camp stating that the donation is for camper Missy Moulton. The address is The Barton Center for Diabetes Education, Inc. P.O. Box Enis Road, North Oxford, MA 01537.
For more information about the camp, or to send a donation on-line, visit www.bartoncenter.org.