Abbey Malloy – Juvenile Diabetes

Learn more about Abbey's experience with Juvenile Diabetes at Children's Hospital.

Striving for Normalcy

Abbey Malloy truly believes she has a guardian angel. At the age of 4, she instinctively requested that her father take her to the doctor the day she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. She suspected that what the doctor was going to say would be best heard by her father-despite the fact that he had never taken her to the doctor before. Then, there was the mysterious phone ringing in the middle of the night that woke Abbey's mother just in time to catch a low sugar level.

Abbey believes these events are more than just coincidence. She is sure someone is looking out for her. In fact, there are many people watching out for Abbey, including Abbey herself.

Abbey, now 7 years old, is very independent, and she took charge of her diabetes from the beginning. “Abbey learned everything she could about diabetes,” says Dawn Malloy, Abbey's mother. “She watched the diabetes education video over and over, and she quickly learned how to check her blood sugar all by herself.”

When she started school, Abbey taught her classmates at Queen of Angels school about her disease. According to Dawn, Abbey said, “God gave me diabetes because people need to learn about it.”

Abbey's diabetes has been an educational experience for everyone who knows her, including her classmates, teachers, friends, and, most especially, her family. “At first, learning about Abbey's diabetes was really overwhelming,” says Abbey's father, Dan Malloy. “Our first thoughts were ‘We’ll never be able to do this. How will we give her shots? How will we know how much insulin she needs?”

For the Malloys, the most difficult part of dealing with Abbey's juvenile diabetes was learning to manage her sugar levels. But all the answers and help the Malloys needed came from the staff in the Endocrinology Department at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. “We learned quickly that Abbey's sugar levels are affected by everything from food to physical activity and illness,” says Dan. “For example, if Abbey takes a dose of insulin to prepare her sugar level to play ­outside and then it rains, her sugar level might get too high. It can be a really tough thing to regulate, especially for a child.”

Fortunately for Abbey, tech­nology is also on her side. Today, instead of giving herself three injections every day, Abbey wears a small pump that delivers a con­sistent dose of insulin to keep her body's base level of insulin regulated. Additional doses of insulin can be programmed into the pump and delivered whenever her body needs it, such as at meal times.

“Before the pump, when Abbey's sugar levels got too high, we couldn't do anything about it for six hours,” says Dan. “Now that she wears the pump, her levels can be corrected almost immediately. It has given all of us more flexibility, and it has given Abbey a lot more freedom. Now she can go to a friend's birthday party and eat cake or have a piece of candy every now and then without worrying what it will do to her sugar levels.”

Now that her diabetes is under control, Abbey is busy just being a kid. She likes to eat pizza with friends, play soccer, take piano lessons, participate in Girl Scout activities and play on the computer with her brothers. Abbey also enjoys meeting other children with diabetes. Together, they have formed an informal ­support group. When they meet, they often share their experiences and swap advice about how to cope with all the challenges diabetes brings.

While Abbey gets plenty of support from her friends, family and the staff at UPMC Children's Hospital, it's Abbey's attitude that's the real key to her success. Soon after Abbey was diagnosed with diabetes, she heard a song by the pop music group, Chumbawumba. The lyrics talk about being knocked down and getting up again. Her parents say that when Abbey heard the song, she revised the lyrics to create her own anthem: “I get knocked down, but I get up again.” And it has become the attitude she lives by.