Heart to Heart: T1D Caregiver Spotlight – Awilda Duffy

in ,

February’s “Heart to Heart: T1D Caregiver Spotlight” is on Awilda Duffy from Jacksonville, Florida! Awilda is a retired McDonald’s franchise owner that shares five grandchildren with her husband. Their grandson, Noah, was diagnosed with type one diabetes (T1D) at just 20 months old.

When Noah was diagnosed, his blood sugar had spiked to over 1,000 and he was on the verge of a diabetic coma.  After spending days in the hospital learning how to administer insulin injections and take blood sugar readings, Awilda’s family went home and started their journey of becoming caregivers for Noah.

Since Noah’s diagnosis, Awilda and her family have worked to learn how to best manage his T1D as he grows up. 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?

“Dealing with a toddler with T1D was extremely difficult,” explains Awilda. “The frequent finger pricks and injections hurt, and it tore at your heart to see him in pain.” As Noah grew older and more accustomed to the requirements of his condition, Awilda says that it became a bit easier.

Whenever there’s a T1D diagnosis in the family, it can be a scary time. In the case of young children, it’s difficult for them to know that something isn’t right. JDRF has a ton of resources specifically for infants, toddlers, and young children who have recently been diagnosed with T1D. Click here to find everything you need to establish your new normal.

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?

After a few years living with T1D, Noah received the insulin pump and has learned to monitor his own blood sugar and to enter the carbohydrate count in the device so he can have the insulin he needs.

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? 

“In some respects, it is easier dealing with a child who has no memory of life without diabetes,” says Awilda. “Learning how to take blood samples and give injections to a baby was difficult, but it taught me that you can bring yourself to do anything for your family.”

“I have learned that there are fantastic resources available to the T1D community and that there is no reason to be fearful,” explains Awilda. Living with the burden of T1D can be overwhelming at times, but you’re never alone — the JDRF community has your back with these helpful resources and support groups.

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

“The T1D community is incredibly supportive.  We are all there for each other,” says Awilda. “Meeting families who were further along in their journey with T1D gave me hope that that our family would cope well with this.”

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?

“I have been a strong supporter of JDRF, serving on the area board of directors and working on several committees,” says Awilda. “We contribute to JDRF and have supported the annual fundraising gala — Noah has actually been a featured speaker at the last several galas!”

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

The most important thing Awilda would want to tell other families beginning to deal with T1D is that the whole JDRF community is here to help. Other caregivers and family members of those living with T1D can offer their experiences and advice to help them deal with this. “Also, we can let you know that JDRF’s research continues to make fantastic progress towards turning type one into type none.”

A True T1D Champion

We believe that because of grandparents, parents, and caregivers like Awilda, 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.