It's a diagnosis no parent wants to hear: "Your child has Type 1 diabetes."
"It changed our lives," said Erin Adkinson, talking of the day she was told her oldest child had Type 1 diabetes.
She heard the diagnosis five years ago when Annabelle was 7 years old.
Annabelle had complained of not feeling well and had lost weight that summer, but Erin remembers thinking it was normal as Annabelle was very active. When she started throwing up, her parents thought it was a stomach virus. But when it worsened to the point that Annabelle couldn't stop throwing up and began panting like she couldn't catch her breath, the family headed to the emergency room.
Erin, who is the wife of Sheriff Mike Adkinson, becomes emotional as she recalls that it's a good thing they did not wait. If they had, they might have lost Annabelle.
"We got her there just in time," she said.
The hospital wanted to send her by helicopter to a Pensacola hospital but could not, due to high winds. She was transferred by ambulance and spent five days in intensive care — five days of which Annabelle has no recollection.
The Adkinsons were lucky, and today their daughter is an active and healthy 12-year-old, with just a few adjustments made to the family's lifestyle. She is on a pump and doing great, said Erin.
"She makes straight As in school, we have a support group, and we visit other families with children who have been newly-diagnosed with the disease," she said.
In addition, Annabelle plays volleyball, and is a beauty queen. She is the reining Junior Miss River City 2013, Junior Miss Queen of Hope 2013, Miss 6th Grade Walton Warriors, and she is preparing for the Miss Northwest Florida pageant.
"She has a light, and is very engaging," the proud mother says of her first-born.
However, there is no cure for the disease and it is something the family will be living with for the rest of their lives.
"It's lonely," Erin says of that reality. "It affects not just the child, but the entire family."
Knowing she cannot be with her daughter all the time, Erin has made sure that everyone knows of Annabelle's diabetes so they can get help if they notice a change in her. And Annabelle has given a presentation to children at her school about diabetes and its symptoms.
Erin also tells parents to be aware of changes in their children, and if they notice any, go for a quick blood test that could save a life.
"Education is key," she said. "Know the difference between Type 1 and 2. We didn't know because no one else has it in our families. Juvenile Diabetes (Type 1) is different. It's not caused by what you eat. A child can get a virus or high fever and it attacks your pancreas, which can bring it on."
Living with the pump and monitoring blood-sugar levels is a way of life for those who live with Type 1 Diabetes, unless a cure is found.
The Adkinson family has formed the team Annabelle's Avengers to run/walk in the annual Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Color Me Cured 5K/10K Fun Run Nov. 30 at the Fort Walton Landing to benefit Juvenile Diabetes research. They invite all friends and family to join them in this run for a cure.
Entry fee is $40. Approximately 1,000 runners are expected to participate.
If you would like to join them, call 830-7126 for more information.
Annabelle says the diagnosis changed her life.
"I was pretty young," she says. "But it helped me grow up and be more responsible. All my friends know and no one treats me differently."
But her hope for the future?
To find a cure.