Heart to Heart: T1D Caregiver Spotlight – Todd Marinko

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August’s “Heart to Heart: T1D Caregiver Spotlight” is on Todd Marinko! Todd and his wife, Kristin, live in Ponte Vedra Beach with their three children (Thomas, Nicholas, and Helena) and two dogs. He owns his own management consulting firm and moved to Florida little over a year ago.

Todd’ daughter, Helena, was diagnosed with type one diabetes (T1D) back in July 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, 11 years old, Helena is in the sixth grade and love to dance. If she’s not dancing around the house or at the studio, she’s at the beach, finding joy and strength in both. The family looks forward to seeing her dancing on stage again this year and on the sidelines of her middle school’s football games this season.

A little over three years since Helena’s diagnosis, Todd and Kristin have worked to learn how to best manage her T1D as she grows up. Todd has gone through all the highs and lows with their family, and learned some helpful tips for caring for a loved one with T1D. Below you will find some insightful, realistic advice and information that comes with being a T1D caregiver:

Throughout your child’s T1D journey, what have been the biggest challenges you faced?

“At eight, Helena was thrust into adult decision-making about her health,” says Todd. “Her biggest fear is going low; we’ve had a couple of scares (yes, including a late-night ambulance call out) as parents, we wrestle with helping her take responsibility of her treatment and not defining her life to a number or being “good” or “bad” because of the results.”

While adjusting to life with a child with type 1 diabetes, are there certain things you found that helped you better manage their disease? What about something that helped give you hope when you were just getting started?

For the Marinko family, there have been two things that have been most helpful: gaining knowledge on the disease (through research and other parents’ experiences) and technology (CGM & Pump). “For new parents, have hope,” says Todd. “Your disease management skills will quickly develop, and there’s always something new on the horizon.”

What skills/lessons has raising a T1D child taught you? For a parent of a newly diagnosed T1D, how would you compare those feelings to now? 

“We’ve seen Helena’s inner strength develop and flourish through this journey,” explains Todd. “It’s overwhelming when your child is diagnosed — that’s normal, but you all learn and adapt quickly; now it’s integrated into our decision-making and lives.”

Can you touch on why it’s important for T1D caregivers to come together?

“Just like other groups that people rally around: faith, sports, hobbies, etc., this is an important community that is a wealth of knowledge, experience, and, most importantly, understanding. You will learn lots and add value through your own approach and experiences.”

JDRF has many support groups for those living with T1D and their caregivers – for more information, visit jdrf.org/t1d-resources/personal-support/. If you’re looking for local support in the Northern Florida area, send an email to northernflorida@jdrf.org and we will make sure you get connected with other families, support groups, and events we host throughout the year.

What has JDRF meant to/done for your family?

JDRF has shown the Marinko family that they’re not alone. “It’s plugged us into opportunities for Helena to share unique experiences with fellow T1D Warriors, provide education, a network for conversations, and hope that our daughter will live a full life.”

What is the most important thing you would want other parents of children with T1D to know?

“Get involved with JDRF; the value of sharing experiences and knowledge is two-way.”

A True T1D Champion

We believe that because of parents and caregivers like Todd, the children living with T1D in our community are given the support and care they need to succeed in life and in managing their disease. To anyone caring for a child with T1D, please know that you are not alone in the sleepless nights and heavy days. JDRF Northern Florida is here to help you and can connect you with a network of other T1D caregivers to share advice, struggles, and words of encouragement.

For more information or to submit someone for our “Heart to Heart: T1D Caregiver Spotlight,” please contact Jennifer Sifrit at JSifrit@jdrf.org.