Heart to Heart: T1D Caregiver Spotlight – Erin Warren

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March’s “Heart to Heart: T1D Caregiver Spotlight” is on Erin Warren from Orlando, Florida! Erin is a writer, speaker, and Bible study teacher through her ministry: Feasting on Truth. She’s married to her wonderful husband, Kris, and they have three kids: Tate, Bennett, and Kipton.

Kipton is the Warren Family’s T1D Warrior! He was diagnosed with type one diabetes (T1D) at 7 years old on April 25th of 2022 (his sister’s 10th birthday). Today, Kipton is in 3rd grade and doesn’t let his T1D diagnosis define him – he’s full of energy, loves basketball, figuring out how things work, and all things video games.

Several weeks leading up to his diagnosis, Kipton had been feeling “off,” but Erin says that the family had explained it all away because they didn’t know the symptoms of T1D at the time. Since Kipton’s diagnosis almost 2 years ago, Erin 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?

When Kipton was diagnosed with T1D, the Warren Family knew absolutely nothing about T1D. In fact, not knowing how serious it was, Kris didn’t even come to the doctor with Erin and Kipton. Once they realized the reality of what Kipton would be living with, it completely flipped their world upside down.

“It’s a lot to learn and a lot to take in and affects every aspect of your family’s life,” says Erin. “I think daily being ‘on’, making 350+ more decisions a day, and not getting to sleep through the night have been most challenging for us.”

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?

Staying organized has been a big help to the Warrens – they cleared out a kitchen drawer and have small bins to organize Kipton’s supplies. They also keep a notepad and pen in the kitchen to write down his meals and add up carbs.

“Learn and research at your own pace,” explains Erin. “There were some voices in the T1D space that created more stress for me as I tried to create that ‘perfect’ line. Find the voices that are encouraging; you need encouraging hope!”

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? 

Since Kipton’s diagnosis, the Warren Family has learned to be more flexible and open-handed with their lives. “Sometimes we are late because a blood sugar drops right when we are supposed to leave the house and there are times we dropped everything and cancel plans, but have learned to be okay with it,” says Erin. “We were so overwhelmed at first, and it felt like we would never figure it out. But now, two years in, it’s part of our norm.”

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

“T1D can be isolating! I have a few other T1D moms that I can text when we are having a bad day and I ask questions of other veteran T1D moms when I’m not sure what to do,” says Erin.

“We encourage one another, and it reminds me that we are not alone. Very few people can truly understand what it’s like to care for a T1D child. We have some friends who have entered into the hard with us, but no one gets it like another T1D parent.”

What has JDRF meant to/done for your family?

“We love JDRF!” exclaims Erin. “As I sat in the endocrinologist’s office with a very sick little boy, feeling fearful and unsure, the diabetes educator walked in with Kipton’s new best friend, Rufus, and a backpack FULL of books and resources to help us.” Today, Kipton still reads the storybooks they received that day, and the family references those books for tips and information.

“We love the One Walk too. It’s so great to see the community come together around finding a cure. Last year, so many of Kipton’s friends from school, his teacher, and even his school nurse came out to support him. We felt so loved and seen.” To learn more and register for a JDRF One Walk in your area, visit walk.jdrf.org.

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

The best piece of advice Erin got in those early days from another T1D mom was “it doesn’t get better, but it does get more familiar.” She says that it has been so true to this day. T1D is a 24/7 disease and invades so much of your life, but day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year, it gets more familiar. Now, the Warrens don’t have to think as hard about everything little thing.

“Let yourself discover more information slowly – there is a great deal of information out there and more than can be absorbed at once. Find the podcasts, influencers, organizations, and other resources that resonate with you and the way you want to manage diabetes for your child. There were some that I stopped listening to because I felt too much pressure at first to do something that didn’t work for our family.”

Erin also wants to remind other T1D caregivers that they don’t have to listen to everyone – different families handle diabetes differently, and that’s okay: some people are more lax and some are more rigid. “Do what’s best for you and your child, and don’t be ashamed by it! If you or your child aren’t ready for a pump or a CGM, it’s okay. Take steps when you are ready.”

“Unfortunately, people will say really dumb stuff to you… like really dumb, thinking they know all about diabetes. Master the art of smiling, saying ‘okay, thanks’ and walking away. Ha!”

There are some fantastic companies who make amazing supplies to help T1D caregivers stay organized on the go, counting carbs a breeze, and great medical ID tags/jewelry. “Style doesn’t have to suffer!”

A True T1D Champion

We believe that because of parents and caregivers like Erin, 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.