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Twins turn grandparents into science project

Twfourth-graders Lamir(left) LamayMarshall (right) are doing their science project effect exercise their diabetic grandmother Mildred Perkins. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times

Twin fourth-graders Lamira (left) and Lamaya Marshall (right) are doing their science project on the effect of exercise on their diabetic grandmother Mildred Perkins. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 26, 2013 6:03AM



Lamaya and Lamira Marshall, 9-year-old twins, want their grandmother to “stick around” to see them grow to adulthood.

They also want to get “a big fat A” on their science project at Flossmoor Hills Elementary School in Flossmoor District 161.

When the fourth-graders put their identical heads together, they came up with what they hope will get them an “A plus” grade and improve the health of their grandmother, Mildred Perkins, 69, who has a diabetic condition.

“My eyesight ... started deteriorating, and I was getting really tired a lot. I didn’t know what was going on,” Perkins said.

A trip to the doctor’s office about four years ago showed that Perkins had Type 2 diabetes. She was put on medication and a diabetic diet.

“No injections so far,” she said.

So far, so good, but Perkins’ granddaughters hope to not only help her avoid insulin injections but eliminate medication altogether with a daily exercise routine for her while documenting the results for their science project.

When the girls’ fourth-grade teachers — Ashley Lamorte for Lamaya and Michelle Jeros for Lamira — assigned science projects, the girls knew they could work as a team. What they didn’t know was what topic to choose.

Lamaya said her initial thoughts of “making a volcano” didn’t excite them.

“One day I thought of being a doctor and finding a cure for diabetes,” she said.

That career goal and her grandmother’s unused exercise bike gave her an idea.

Lamira immediately was on board with the topic. She thought it also would be an opportunity to help their grandfather in Florida who also has diabetes.

“I think we can make a difference for him, too,” she said.

Their scientific question — “How does exercise affect the blood glucose levels of a person with diabetes?” — was on its way to being answered.

Perkins said she and the girls began monitoring her glucose levels in December. Despite medication, her levels were at 144, about 44 points higher than they should be, she said.

By early March, several weeks out from the project due date, Perkins said her glucose measured 130, progress in the right direction.

Though her diet is not part of the science project, her granddaughters have learned enough about diabetes to scold her when they catch her eating a forbidden treat, she said.

“Sometimes we catch her eating vanilla ice cream,” Lamira said.

Other than an occasional lapse, Perkins said she has taken the project seriously and has noticed that she has more energy as a result of her daily, one-hour exercise routine.

“I’m inspired to exercise more and watch what I eat,” she said. “I hope one of the outcomes of this is that I will continue to exercise.”

Perkins said she’s “very proud” of her granddaughters and what they’re doing for her, but she sees an additional benefit from their project.

She said Lamaya and Lamira — as well as their mother, Paula Nicholas, and their older sisters, Larissa, 12, and Lauren, 14 — “have a great chance that they may be diabetics one day” because the disease is hereditary.

Perkins said the project may be just what they need to avoid becoming diabetic.

In the near term, however, the twins said their grandmother’s well-being comes first.



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