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Gretchen

Type 1 Diabetes Success Story

Date Posted: Monday, February 01, 2021

gretchen

Gretchen was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) during the Spring of 2019 at 8 years old. Her family was living in Puerto Rico at the time. While spending a weekend at her grandparent’s house, she began to develop signs and symptoms associated with a T1D diagnosis, including frequent urination, increased thirst and fatigue. Her grandfather was familiar with the symptoms because another one of his granddaughters, Gretchen’s cousin, has T1D. He checked her blood sugar and Gretchen ended up at a hospital in Puerto Rico.

One year later, the family had moved to Massachusetts and Gretchen had her first appointment at the UMass Memorial Pediatric Diabetes Center. “She was barely getting by on her honeymoon phase,” said Dr. Amy Daru, Gretchen’s pediatric endocrinologist. “As she exited her honeymoon phase, her A1c jumped from 10.5% to above 14%. At her office visit during the summer of 2020, she was in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and had to be hospitalized right away.”

Through a translator, Gretchen’s mother said the diabetes education they received in Puerto Rico was very poor. “[In Puerto Rico] they mentioned to avoid carbohydrates and showed us how to inject insulin, which is different from how we were taught here,” she said. “At UMass they showed us how to count carbs and educated us about nutrition. They’ve taught us a lot here we didn’t know about treating and living with diabetes.”

“Gretchen and her mother received a week of diabetes education from our pediatric care team while she was hospitalized,” said Dr. Daru. “It’s a stressful time for any family, but in addition to not speaking English and using UMass Memorial’s translator services to communicate with us, the first wave of COVID-19 was peaking as well.”

After putting their new diabetes education into action, Gretchen’s A1c at her Fall 2020 clinic appointment had dropped to 6.5%. “The interpreters were very clear with the instructions given to us by our care team,” her mother said with a smile. “In Puerto Rico they told us that the best doctors are in the United States. The attention and care that Gretchen receives here is excellent.  Everyone is kind, professional and thoughtful.”

“Her success is testimony to how hard they’ve worked,” said Dr. Daru. “Her entire care team is very proud of them and happy for them!” 

Gretchen is in 5th grade where her favorite subject is English. She enjoys learning the language, and listening to music, which helps her with English. Her favorite thing about living in Massachusetts is the snow. Gretchen plans to learn to play piano and will take lessons after the Covid-19 pandemic. Like most girls her age, she loves learning new dances on Tik Tok. 

She says she feels physically better since getting her blood sugars under control. When asked how she felt about her success, she smiled and answered, in English, “Happy!”     

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