• Jacksonville mother becomes Diabetes awareness advocate following daughter's death

    By: Elizabeth Pace , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    A Jacksonville wife and mother, Teresa Lewis, is making it her mission to spread awareness about the disease that killed her daughter. 

    “Technically, we had our first Christmas last year, without her, but this year, it feels like it’s the real first Christmas,” Lewis said. 

    Lewis’ 19-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was previously diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, which is an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid gland. The National Institute of Health said it is the most common thyroid illness in the United States.  

    After Alyssa Lewis felt sick for several days during final examines last December, Teresa Lewis convinced her to make an appointment with a local doctor. The next morning, when Teresa Lewis drove down to the University of Central Florida campus where her daughter was a student, she made a shocking discovery that changed her family’s lives forever. 

    Alyssa Lewis was found unresponsive in her UCF dorm room on Dec. 12, 2017. An autopsy later revealed she passed away from complications from Type 1 diabetes. 

    “We were told at that time by the medical examiner that typically when you have one autoimmune disease, you’re going to have a higher risk for a secondary one,” Lewis said. “Come to find out with further information Hashimoto’s and Diabetes are very closely related.”

    STORY: Salvation Army introduces new online campaign to drive donations

    Teresa Lewis said her family was shocked to learn Alyssa Lewis had Type 1 diabetes. She said Alyssa Lewis' doctor did not warn them about the chance of Hashimoto’s disease leading to another autoimmune disease, and she wishes would have had more information. 

    “Once I found out what took her life... I had to do something, because a simple blood test, that’s all it would’ve taken, a simple stupid blood test,” Teresa Lewis said. 

    STORY: Service dog protects Jacksonville boy with Type 1 Diabetes

    According to the National Institute of Health’s website, the thyroid disease has been linked to Type 1 diabetes, lupus, and celiac disease. It can be treated with a daily oral medication prescribed by the patient’s doctor. 

    “Some of those symptoms overlap with other diseases,” Dr. Joe Chehade, with UF Health, said. “Family history of autoimmune disease and a kid who is drinking a lot, peeing a lot, bed-wetting, losing weight for no reason, fatigue, extreme hunger, at that time, they should look for Type 1 diabetes.”

    Next Up: