NorthShore Patient Spotlight

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Healthy You Podcast – My Broken Pancreas

The Healthy You podcast from NorthShore University HealthSystem is an informative and entertaining dive into what’s happening in healthcare from top medical experts. From issues making headlines to the latest developments in patient care, we’re here to help you lead a healthier life.

Maria Kellner was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was a toddler. Now at 36, she shares her world of insulin injections, blood sugar checks, and the rollercoaster ride of what happens if she makes a wrong medical decision.

Listen to it directly in your browser here or subscribe on your favorite podcast app.

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Meet Sammy Dotzler and His Family

Sammy Dotzler, shown in the middle under the umbrella, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) at age 4. He receives care at NorthShore. 

Being diagnosed with Type1 diabetes (T1D) can be overwhelming. When it happens to a 4½-year-old, the chronic condition can wreak havoc on an entire family. Sammy Dotzler, now 8, knows firsthand the trials and tribulations of being a T1D patient—but fortunately, he and his parents have found excellent care and compassion with NorthShore’s Pediatric Endocrinology team.

Sammy’s mom, Erin Dotzler, remembers quite clearly the moment they first met Stephanie Drobac, MD, and Certified Diabetes Educator Heather Barrett, immediately following Sammy’s diagnosis and hospitalization.

“They are a wonderful team, and they’ve done so much more for us than provide clinical guidance,” said Erin Dotzler, who was equally complimentary of the clinical team at Evanston Hospital who cared for Sammy and helped educate them when he was first diagnosed four years ago.

“Everyone stopped, listened to us and was truly there in the room with us, which was so meaningful—especially in a traumatic situation,” recalled Dotzler. “I walked away with a complete appreciation and respect for the team who made us feel like we were the only patient that mattered to them.”

In the years since Sammy was diagnosed, technology has improved tremendously, which has made monitoring his blood glucose a little easier and lessened the number of finger pricks he has to endure.

“It was like the poker was a meteor and my finger was Earth,” said Sammy of the countless finger pricks he was subjected to in the early days of his disease. “I didn’t like it at all. I still don’t—but now I’m used to it.”

The kinship and compassion provided by Barrett, who also has T1D, has been especially valuable to Sammy and his family. “I think it helps people when they know that I have it, too,” said Barrett. “We want them to feel an equal mastery and know they can thrive despite this condition.”

Diabetes educators are an integral part of the clinical team, something that sets NorthShore apart from other practices. “We practice with a team approach, and we are all very involved in the care of our patients,” said Dr. Drobac. “Our diabetes educators are incredibly committed to our patients and families. They provide not only diabetes education but also support and guidance. Adjusting to life with T1D isn’t easy, but our team is here to help guide families through their new reality.  We want our patients to know that diabetes doesn’t define them and they can still achieve their hopes and dreams.”

“People are more than their blood sugars and their chronic condition,” added Barrett. “This is just a part of them.”

The Dotzlers are active supporters of JDRF and are grateful for the advocacy and community they’ve found. “We hate diabetes,” said Erin Dotzler, “but we love people with diabetes.”