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Paying it Forward: T1D Warrior Bags


Braden was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) on February 6, 2017 at the age of 10.  “It was the day after the Patriots won the Superbowl,” said his mother Kristen.  “We figured he was just tired.”  With a 694 blood sugar and high ketones, her son was rushed to the emergency room at UMass Memorial, and was later sent upstairs to ICU.  She's grateful to the UMass Memorial Pediatric Diabetes Care Team who took such good care of him and transitioned their family to life with type 1 diabetes.

After a frightening, overwhelming and educational three days in the hospital, Braden was back on the basketball court two days later!  “The nurses, educators, social workers, child life specialist and Dr. Angelescu are such a concrete team,” said Kristen.  “Even though we were scared to go home, they encouraged him to play his scheduled playoff game and live a normal life.”   

Now as a 12 year old in 6th grade, Braden’s A1c is as low as it’s been since diagnosis…7.1%.  He credits his insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which he’s been using for 10 months.  At first, he was afraid of “being different” and didn’t want others at school to see his tubing or to “beep in class.”  With the help of his care team, he's now comfortable and confident managing his diabetes.  His pump and CGM are a part of him and he tests his blood sugar freely in front of others.  “It was a game changer,” said Kristen.

Braden plays baseball, football, basketball and golf.  Each sport affects his blood sugar differently, and he’s learned how to manage various situations.  He takes his pump off while on the basketball court, wears a pouch/spy belt during baseball games, and changes his infusion sites based on what's coming up.  “When I’m golfing, I put it on my stomach or back,” he said.  “I won’t put it on my arm if I know I’ll be pitching.” 

“He’s a good planner,” added Mom.  “Very strategic.”  Braden has learned that he tends to “go low” when he's playing outside with friends, and “goes high” when playing competitive sports like basketball. 

On his first diaversary, Braden decided to pack and donate bags for children who are in the hospital with a new diabetes diagnosis.  They were filled with coloring books and crayons, legos, cars, calculators, measuring cups, and books.  He included a letter which read "You can do anything you want in life. You're a #Type1Diabetes Warrior too!"

Braden remembers being bored and having little to do besides watch TV when he was in the hospital.  A little over a month after returning home, he received the JDRF Bag of Hope, containing information, supplies, and Rufus, the Bear with Diabetes®.  “I wish I had that stuff when I was in the hospital,” Braden said.  So I decided to put these bags together for other kids to enjoy while they are still there.”   

One of the bags was given to 8 year old Colby who was at UMass Memorial going through his 3 day training, having just been diagnosed with T1D.  He too was scared and bored in his hospital room, while he and his parents received an overwhelming amount of information about their “new normal.” 

Colby is also an athlete.  He plays hockey for the Jr. Railers and is also a lacrosse player.  He appreciated reading Braden’s letter, and receiving the toys and supplies in his T1D Warrior bag.  On his first diaversary, Colby decided to “pay it forward” and dropped off bags that he and his family filled for newly diagnosed children. 

His letter reads:

Who Am I?  Colby – so much more than a type 1 diabetic

Here is what I can do:

  • I can be a top hockey player
  • I can kill it at lacrosse
  • I can have friends over
  • I can go to my friends’ houses and have sleepovers
  • I can go to school and not be bothered by it
  • I can go on field trips
  • I can go swimming
  • I can play and have fun
  • I can eat all the yummy foods I love
  • I can count on my family and friends to help me with my highs and lows
  • I can feel my highs and my lows
  • I can handle my diabetes
  • I can live a happy life
  • I am stronger than I ever was

Here is what I can’t do:

  • Make my own insulin

T.J. is another boy who was inspired by Braden and Colby's generosity.  He also participate in the JDRF Walk on a team called “TJ’s Troops”.  Throughout the month of November (National Diabetes Month) he wore blue clothes and colored his hair blue every Friday.  T.J. was featured as a UMass Diabetes Wall of Honor Patient Success Story.      

What these three boys have lost in pancreas function, they more than make up for with heart! 

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