December’s “Heart to Heart: T1D Caregiver Spotlight” is on Mike Bosl from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida! Mike and his wife, Steph, (attempt to) juggle work alongside various sports and activities that keep smiles on the faces of their three wonderful children: Grace (11), Madelynn (10), and Michael (8). Mike is a financial consultant with Sigma Financial helping individuals and small businesses navigate an increasing complex financial world, while Steph has worked in education the past ~20 years, currently helping The Morris Center/Neurodevelopment of Words expand their mission of global literacy! Mike also serves on the JDRF Jacksonville Community Board of Directors.
Their middle child, Madelynn (aka “Maddie”), was diagnosed with type one diabetes (T1D) when she was 6 & ½ years old in April 2020, roughly two months into the COVID-19 Pandemic. Maddie’s favorite sport is gymnastics (she loves Simone Biles), enjoys the beach, fishing with her brother, goofing off with her older sister, and snugging up every night with their black lab “Mia” (who follows Maddie everywhere, as they are best buds!).
Three years since Maddie’s diagnosis, Mike and Steph have worked to learn how to best manage her T1D as she grows up. Mike 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?
“Great question,” says Mike. “Obviously, Maddie’s health and safety (along with our other children) are the number one priority. For Maddie, the constant highs, lows, not feeling well, finger pricks at night, being a scared young child wondering if she will be okay, explaining to her friends what diabetes is, going through ‘diabetes fatigue’ (every meal, ever hour of every day and night, having to deal with the disease has been exhausting for her), as well as being the ‘pink smurf’ (i.e., different from other kids).”
For Mike and Steph as parents, they realized Maddie is going through something that they simply cannot comprehend. Yes, the situation has been hard on them, but they say it has also helped them focus on what is truly important in life: family, friends, kindness, gratitude, and knowing “you never know what someone else is going through.” Mike would say that their caffeine intake has significantly increased the past 3.5 years (haha!).
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?
Certain things that helped the Bosls better manage Maddie’s disease include paying close attention to Maddie’s diet, providing a calm & happy environment, making sure she gets a good night’s sleep, their black lab Mia (Maddie’s best bud!), exercise, and patience.
“JDRF’s mission to find a cure for diabetes has definitely played a very important and crucial role in providing Maddie with hope that the possibility of a cure is there!” Further, Mike explains that JDRF has provided such a fantastic support network to their family — they are still in awe and forever grateful.
A quick story Mike would like to share: “While many people might not know this, we were at a JDRF Walk at the University of North Florida here in Jacksonville, and Chad Muma (Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker with T1D) got up on stage and gave a very emotional and inspirational speech. Once he was finished, Maddie turned to me (something I will never forget) and said, ‘you mean, you can have diabetes and still be a professional athlete?!’ Her eyes lit up as she realized that the ‘sky was the limit’ – the HOPE & BELIEF on her face brought tears to our eyes… oh, and Chad Muma remains her favorite player!” 😊
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?
Raising a child with T1D has taught the Bosls (and reminded them) what really is important in life: family, friends, respect, kindness, and sympathy. “Being kind is such an easy thing to do,” says Mike. “We always remind our children to ‘treat others as you would want to be treated.’”
“While Steph and I have always respected others and would never assume to know what is going on ‘behind closed doors,’ our appreciation for that (post T1D diagnosis) is greater than ever,” explains Mike. “A son of a doctor and nurse, I thought I understood T1D pretty well growing up. It turns out, I had absolutely zero clue how tough the disease was/is on both the individual who has T1D and family members/caretakers.“
Can you touch on why it’s important for T1D caregivers to come together?
“T1D caregivers coming together is crucial because no one really understands the demands on both the child(ren) and family, unless one has gone through it themselves,” says Mike. “Without this support network, a caregiver is not able to feel like they relate to anyone, therefore, conversations and relationships are shallower than they might be otherwise.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.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 been such a positive influence, while providing hope and support, to both Maddie and the Bosl family! JDRF walks, picnics, football games, annual Galas and other events have been instrumental in providing community support in pursuit of such an important mission, one which has been giving Maddie and their family hope!
What is the most important thing you would want other parents of children with T1D to know?
Further, get in contact with your local JDRF because they will help connect you with other T1D families while providing you a shoulder to cry on or an ear to vent to. Additionally, via JDRF’s mission to find a cure and encourage community involvement, they provide a foundation of support and belief that life will be okay (even if there are some bumps in the road).
A True T1D Champion
We believe that because of parents and caregivers like Mike and Steph, 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.