A Christmas Eve in Portland That Changed A Family’s Path

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The meaning of Christmas Eve changed dramatically for the Brooke Family of Portland, OR in 2015.

Michael and Kari’s five-year-old son, Andrew, had exhibited months of unexplained, increasing irritability and, as the holiday crept closer, extreme thirst and fatigue. Andrew’s grandmother had recently passed away – in the midst of the grief and chaos, this onset of atypical behaviors didn’t raise an alarm.

On December 24, 2015, Kari’s brother pulled her away to share that Andrew’s unquenchable thirst could be a sign of diabetes. They used a meter to test his blood sugar at home – it was close to 400 after 14 hours of fasting. When Kari called the pediatrician’s office, she was given an appointment two weeks later and told to increase his exercise. She just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong and made another call to the pediatrician – who reiterated that Andrew did not need to be seen. Kari, still sure that something wasn’t right, reached out to a T1D mom in another state who told her to pack a bag and take Andrew to the ER immediately. An hour later, Andrew was handed a holiday teddy bear and admitted to the children’s hospital with a diagnosis of T1D.

Kari shares with us what happened next:

 “We spent Christmas Day learning how to check Andrew’s blood glucose and give him injections. Our Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) shared some information with us about the TrialNet study. A few months later, results of our TrialNet screenings revealed that Andrew’s twin sister, Zoe, had 4 of the 5 autoantibodies associated with T1D.

We were thrown back into the spiral of grief as we learned that she would one day also join the T1D family of superheroes. Zoe participated in multiple studies with TrialNet through the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI) in Seattle. The relationships she developed with her research nurses, coordinators, and physicians have had a profound impact on her sense of identity and determination to live fully while treating this disease. Participating in research at BRI, and supporting advocacy and fundraising with JDRF, has helped connect Zoe with the larger T1D community. On May 31, 2019, Zoe arrived at her diagnosis day a fiercely determined 9-year-old, joining with Andrew to be the Type 1 Twins who can’t be stopped.”

Life with T1D has changed Zoe and Andrew’s life – but the impact of their diagnoses can be felt throughout the whole family, including on their older sister, Sara. She is a passionate and supportive advocate, always ready to hold a hand during a pump site change or run to get a juice box. Sara shares with friends and strangers alike about T1D and what we can all do to know the warning signs and to advocate for a Cure.

For the Brookes, Christmas Eve 2015 is known as “the day that our family stepped off the path we expected to walk and stepped on to the one we now travel. It’s filled with rich friendships, the power of science, and the deep hope for a cure.”

Thanks to your generous support, critical T1D research is moving forward to create a world without T1D. JDRF funded research is making extraordinary advancements and discoveries in T1D treatment and care, and we cannot overstate your role in that work.

Please consider a gift to JDRF to Light the Way to a Cure – in honor of Zoe and Andrew, or your loved one with T1D. A 100% tax deductible gift from you today will help drive JDRF’s mission momentum forward – funding critical research projects to prevent, treat, and ultimately cure T1D.