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The U.S. Air Force may have given Kimberly Davis the opportunity to study nursing, but it was her daughter, Abby, who gave her career direction.
When Abby was just 18-months-old, she was diagnosed with juvenile, or Type 1, diabetes. The news devastated the Davis family.
Mark Davis, an active duty Air Force captain at the time, was given permission to leave his post in Islamabad, Pakistan, to return home to Texas. As a nurse, Kimberly was well aware of the severity of juvenile diabetes. As a mother, she questioned why it had to be her daughter, her baby.
"It took me a long time to come to grips with it," said Kimberly. "I finally realized that if it had to be her, I thank God I am who I am because I understand. The first priority of a nurse is to be a patient advocate, even if that patient is your daughter."
Kimberly left a promising nursing career in the service to care for her daughter. Mark stayed in the service, moving the family from base to base. He is currently a major in the Air Force, on assignment in Southwest Asia. Abby became an advocate too – for everyone with juvenile diabetes.
When the Davis family moved to Prattville, Ala., in 2009, Kimberly had the chance to go back to school "to make a difference," she said. She enrolled at Auburn University and joined the Master of Science in Nursing program with the Auburn and Auburn University Montgomery Schools of Nursing.
"I never felt more supported than I did with the joint program," Kimberly said. "The faculty would just go out of their way to make sure you were getting what you needed to get out of the program. I could not have asked for more."
She aspired to be a clinical nurse specialist in adult health, focusing on the rise of Type 2 diabetes. She graduated in May.
"I saw myself making a huge impact on diabetes, right alongside Abby," she said.
Since Abby, 9, is homeschooled, she helps out when Kimberly lectures to nursing students about diabetes. The pair was recently working together in Washington, D.C., as part of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) 2011 Children's Congress. Abby was one of 150 delegates – one of two from Alabama – chosen to visit Capitol Hill and encourage Congress to support research at the National Institutes of Health to develop a cure.
The youngster planned to show her lawmakers a scrapbook about her life. The pictures of Abby playing soccer, softball, piano, dancing and swimming make her appear to be a typical kid. She may have pricked her finger more than 27,000 times so far, but Abby is "much more than the disease," Kimberly said.
Abby agrees. She's an "Air Force kid" and a sister to Connor, too. She loves Aubie, Auburn's beloved Tiger mascot, and, one day, she's going to attend Auburn to be a veterinarian.
"She's so caring," her mom explained. "She wants to make the world a better place."
Abby knows she will have diabetes forever and her only hope for a life free of finger pricks and insulin pumps is a cure.
"I believe a cure is within her lifetime," said Kimberly. "I wouldn’t be fighting for the JDRF if I didn't believe that."
In the meantime, Kimberly and Abby will continue to raise awareness for diabetes. Mark will join the fight when he returns home from a yearlong assignment in February. And the Davis family will continue to participate, along with other family and friends, in the JDRF's annual Walk to Cure Diabetes.
"This is just the beginning of her role as an advocate," said Kimberly.
Last Updated: Jun. 24, 2011