For parents, the teenage years are among the most challenging. Add a teenager who begins driving—and a teenager with type 1 diabetes (T1D)—and challenging becomes terrifying. Kim Patterson, of Columbia, MD, understands the feeling all too well. Her 15-year-old daughter, Melanie, was diagnosed with T1D at age nine after falling ill with what physicians believed was strep throat and influenza. Kim knew, as Melanie was the healthiest of three children, the diagnosis was not a routine illness. After her condition continued to deteriorate following repeated physician examinations, Melanie ultimately ended up in the hospital, where Kim suggested the care provider check Melanie’s blood sugar. Melanie’s symptoms reflected those of a neighbor’s child with T1D, prompting Kim’s request. The test confirmed Melanie’s T1D diagnosis. The thought of caring for a child with T1D, and two additional children, was daunting for Kim, especially as Melanie became increasingly independent. At the core of Melanie’s success—and Kim’s peace—is trust.
“Melanie said we must trust her to take care of herself and manage her T1D,” says Kim. “We do, which gives her more confidence. She handles it better when mom doesn’t interject.”
As a soccer and lacrosse player, Melanie manages her insulin levels before and during play, and establishes signals with her coaches when she needs a break. This marks the first year since the diagnosis that Kim did not meet and explain Melanie’s T1D with coaches and teachers. “It is part of her relationship with them, which also boosts her confidence and the trust between us,” says Kim.
Kim admits she still confirms with Melanie whether she completes her basal rate injection, and reminds her of important considerations based on her activity level. That aside, Melanie oversees most of the own T1D management, including calculating her insulin dose. “She is our brave brown-eyed girl,” says Kim. “She wanted to take it all on from the very beginning.”
In addition to cultivating trust with your teenager, Kim acknowledges the invaluable resources available from JDRF. Connecting with other parents and families makes all the difference, according to Kim. At the time of Melanie’s diagnosis, Kim called her neighbor whose son was diagnosed with T1D at age two, and was actively involved with the Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Chapter of JDRF. “He said, ‘I want you to know, she will be ok.’ Just knowing I had someone to call for support was tremendously helpful.” Since then, Melanie served as a JDRF Youth Ambassador, and she and her family have planned and participated in walks, galas, and other chapter activities. “There is so much to know about T1D, it is not a perfect science. JDRF can connect families together for help and support,” says Kim.
Kim also credits her medical community at Johns Hopkins Pediatric Endocrine Clinic for supporting Melanie’s health and wellness. “They teach you a great deal in a small amount of time,” says Kim.
In addition to creating trust with her teenage daughter, Kim makes an important observation about the dynamic, “Melanie told me she knows I trust her [to manage her T1D]. To hear that we had made it to a place where she recognizes I trust her with her independence—is really a great feeling.”