Lucy can work her insulin device herself, but leaves the needles to her mom.
She pulled the small machine, which resembles a pager from the red polka dot fanny pack she wears. The sensor lets Lucy check her insulin and administer more of. She pressed some buttons before watching 10 units of insulin flow from the device through a tube and into her stomach.
By the time she was done giving herself insulin, her cousins had already finished eating their snacks and were ready to keep playing. Before running over to join them, Lucy shoved a sugar cookie in her mouth.
The average 4-year-old weighs 40 pounds. However, when Lucy was 4, she only weighed 30 pounds and was rapidly shedding more weight. Ashley and Garrett were worried.
One doctor thought Lucy had facial cellulitis, an infection of the facial tissues. The penicillin she was prescribed backfired when she broke out into a head-to-toe rash. Another doctor said her symptoms were from just a normal stomachache and combined with the penicillin and steroids prescribed for the rash, but the symptoms did not go away.
“You see it happening, but you can't do anything to stop it.”
— Ashley Matthews
There was a point when Ashley thought Lucy was just dealing with anxiety. She was constantly shaking and crying all the time, but then she kept getting sicker.
On Jan. 22, 2017, Lucy was unable to walk. The family was getting worried. After suggestions from family members, Ashley used her diabetic stepfather's glucose meter to check Lucy's sugar levels.
Lucy screamed and cried at the finger poke, the first of many. The meter read, in all caps: HIGH.
"We were all like 'what?' So we checked again and of course Lucy is screaming and crying because she does not want to get poked, but it read HIGH again," said Ashley.
Ashley called her best friend Kenzi McRadey, a registered nurse who recommended the family head to Norton's Children Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, an hour drive away from home.
Lucy's condition was so unstable that she was put into the pediatric intensive care unit upon arrival at Norton's. Once her family told medical staff her sugar was reading HIGH, it wasn't hard to diagnose her.
The doctor walked into the room with a big smile on his face.
"Well, we have answers," he said. "Lucy has Type 1 diabetes."
Lucy was actually in diabetic ketoacidosis, a condition in which blood begins to turn acidic, when she arrived at the hospital. Lucy's blood sugar was more than 600, nearly eight times higher than the average blood sugar of 80. The doctor informed Lucy's parents that if she would not have come in that night, their daughter would have died.
Doctors and nurses swarmed a severely dehydrated Lucy in the hospital. While preparing to give her a central line, a nurse was able to find a vein in her foot after 30 minutes of searching.
Lucy was initially brought to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. It took roughly three days to move her to the diabetes floor.
Ashley said it was like having a perpetual newborn. Lucy constantly had to be cared for.
While in the hospital, doctors and nurses spent two hours instructing Ashley and Garrett about Lucy's new needs. Parenting a diabetic child meant Ashley and Garrett needed to learn a new set of skills: how to check blood sugar, how to give her medication, the differences between varieties of insulin.
"I felt overwhelmed and underprepared," said Garrett.
Now, they have to be ready to step in when Lucy's blood sugar levels suddenly drop. One time when she was 6-years-old and "low," Lucy climbed into the refrigerator and sprayed whipped cream in her mouth for a quick sugar fix.
"This is the side that a lot of people do not see," Garrett said.
Facebook groups and Google provided Ashley and Garrett with 95% of their diabetes information. It took them years to be able to fine-tune and figure out the small, ever-shifting details of caring for their daughter. As Lucy grows, the numbers change and so does the way her body reacts to different stimuli.
Lucy's diabetes also strains the family financially.
When they left the hospital with all the prescriptions and called CVS, they were told nothing was covered and it was going to be a $1,200 bill just to get the things to keep her alive.
"I'm crying in the hospital, and we will forever be in debt when paying off her hospital bill," Ashley said.
Garrett's parents offered to pay for Lucy's medical costs after the first bill, but that only went so far. That high bill would be the first of many for the Matthews.
The cost of living with diabetes is more than just paying for insulin. Garrett and Ashley now have to cover test strips, alcohol swabs, snacks to fix Lucy's low blood sugar, pump supplies, Dexcom continuous glucose monitor sensors and transmitters, syringes, ketone strips and doctors' appointments.
Even though they have health insurance, sometimes it's cheaper for them to buy supplies at cash price due to inflated insurance costs. All together, Lucy's parents estimate they pay around $15,000 per year out of pocket, a major financial burden for Garrett, a cook, and Ashley, a stay-at-home mom.
One vial of insulin contains 10 milliliters, and each milliliter has 100 units. That cookie with her cousins cost the family $3.32.
Ashley said the root of the problem is that pharmaceutical companies' motivation lies in profit instead of care.
"We don't matter," she said. "My 8-year-old child does not matter, you don't matter, I don't matter. If they do not make money off of us, then it does not matter to them."
Having diabetes became more than just being sick - it became a flood of emotions for Lucy.
Even though she's young, Lucy can see the stigma. She sees the glances from grocery store cashiers as they see diabetic supplies and sugary foods on the belt. She knows that people stare at her pump.
"I don't want diabetes," said Lucy.
Ashley fears for her daughter. She knows one day Lucy will have to find her own insurance and she doesn't want her to have to settle for a job she doesn't want because it has the medical benefits she needs. She doesn't want anything to hold her daughter back.
"It is time for a revolution," Ashley said. "We are not going to do it anymore."
Da’Quincy Pittman missed two months of his sophomore year when he was shot six times. Last week, he went back to class at his school, where four other students have been shot in the last year.
Bruce Smail fought for LGBTQ and minority rights at IU as a graduate student in the ‘90s. This semester, he returns to campus as the interim director of the LGBTQ+ Culture Center.
Monica Kelsey was abandoned at birth. Now, she's dedicated her life to saving abandoned babies.