Middle School Gets More Complicated with Tween’s Type 1 Diagnosis


The start of middle school is a transformative experience for many kids. They’re busy making new friends and juggling a schedule with multiple classrooms and teachers – not to mention dealing with adolescence and the physical and emotional changes and challenges it brings.

“There is so much newness at that age,” said Pam Dillon of Bloomfield Hills. “It’s also a time when kids don’t really want to stand out. They just want to be kids.”

Two years ago, things were about to change even more for Pam’s son, Joe Dillon, a twin and an avid athlete, when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at 12 years old.

At first, Pam was thrilled when it appeared Joe was finally listening to her and drinking water like she always reminded him to do. But his bottle kept getting refilled – and then some more – to the point where she grew concerned.

Joe’s father lives with T1D, so their family was all-too-familiar with the signs that something might be “out of whack.” Pam retrieved her husband’s blood glucose testing kit and discovered Joe was at 290 mg/dL – far higher than the normal range.

“We caught it immediately – we were so grateful we knew the symptoms,” Pam said. “We got him on insulin, and he had a bit of a honeymoon period, but then things started to get worse. It was quite something to watch it unfold.”

Joe had just started 6th grade. He was also a distance runner, a competitive swimmer, and a golfer – all of which require endurance, further complicating his physical health. The sudden management of T1D was a lot for the tween to take on, but connecting with JDRF and other kids his age who were having similar experiences helped Joe move forward.

“He’s doing great,” Pam said. “I’m really proud of him. We’re blessed. It takes a village to really support kids with T1D. JDRF does a great job of getting out there and helping, educating and empowering people in the community and schools.”

Joe is 14 now and has been successfully managing his T1D, thanks in part to the family’s involvement with JDRF.

For the second year, Joe has organized a team, Joe’s Lightning, for the 36th annual Detroit JDRF One Walk on Sunday, September 22, 2019, at Milliken State Park/ Detroit RiverWalk. For more information or to register for JDRF One Walk, click here.