Teddy bear helps families deal with type 1 diabetes

'Rufus' offers comfort and more

By Sarah Mayberry, M.P.H. - Producer

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. - Paige Shehab, 5, has a big personality. She also has a big challenge.

"I have this thing called type 1 diabetes," Paige said.

Her diagnosis last year stunned her family.

"Paige is a ball of energy," said Paige's mother, Amy Shehab. "I had noticed for about two weeks prior that she was very thirsty, and waking up in the middle of the night a couple of times, needing to use the bathroom."

Their pediatrician was out of town, so they made an appointment for the following week. But over the weekend, Shehab became increasingly concerned about Paige.

"Very, very lethargic, and I just knew, mother's intuition," Shehab said. "I said, 'Something's not right.'"

She took Paige to urgent care.

"Her sugar was 525, which is extraordinarily high," Shehab said. "I said, 'She has diabetes, doesn't she?' And he said, 'Yes, and you need to go to the emergency room now.'"

"We got this call from my mom that Paige had diabetes," said Eddie Shehab, Paige's 10-year-old brother. "I was like dumbfounded. I was just like, 'What is happening?'"

"Shocking," said Edward Shehab, Paige's father. "Immediately thought, 'What went wrong? What did we do wrong?'"

Doctors reassured them they had not done anything wrong, and their family immediately rallied around Paige, trying to make the disease easier to bear.

Paige needs four to five shots of insulin a day. Eddie tries to be by her side for as many as possible.

"When I get shots every day, he always stands by me," Paige said.

"I just feel like it's comforting to her, and it feels good to me because I know that every way I can, I'm helping Paige," Eddie said.

Their brother-sister bond brings tears to their mom's eyes.

"Eddie has been her number one fan from day one," Amy Shehab said. "He has really been her hero and always will be."

One of the tools that have helped Paige and Eddie understand the disease is a teddy bear named Rufus. He arrived in a "Bag of Hope" from the JDRF soon after Paige was diagnosed. There were also several children's books dealing with type 1 diabetes.

"We were really touched that they were able to offer this to all children who are diagnosed," Amy Shehab said.

Rufus has special patches where kids can learn to test their blood sugar and give shots of insulin.

Eddie and Paige gladly demonstrated for Local 4.

"I have a little bear named Rufus, and he gets shots too," Paige said.

The Shehab family said Rufus is just one of the many gifts they've received from the JDRF.

"Immediately you're thrown into it, and so you're trying to wrap your brain around it, but then it's about managing the process and understanding the ins and the outs, and the JDRF is always there to kind of help you navigate through all that," Edward Shehab said. "The JDRF is with you to help provide information, help provide comfort, active in raising money, raising awareness. The JDRF is kind of like a beacon of light to help you kind of navigate your way through it."

Before Paige started kindergarten this fall, a JDRF nurse helped train the staff at her school -- just one more service they offer.

The Shehabs couldn't be prouder of how Paige is dealing with her disease.

"She has taken the bull by the horns, she truly has," Amy Shehab said. "This little soul understands the disease. She knows what she needs to do, she knows what she can have what she can't have. She follows the rules, and it's extraordinary."

Paige has this advice for other kids.

"It's OK if you have diabetes because you can still run around and do the same things," Paige said. "You just have to calculate and check your sugar and calculate the food you eat and stuff. You're a kid who does have diabetes, and a lot of people have diabetes, including me."

The annual Detroit JDRF One Walk will be held Sunday. The goal is to raise more than $1 million to help fund critically needed research into type 1 diabetes.

For details on the event, click here.

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