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Type 1 Diabetes Success Story

TJ was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in August 2017 at the age of four.  The youngest of four boys, his mother, Shannon, noticed he was drinking and urinating way more often. Shannon had hypoglycemia when she was younger and always keeps a glucose monitor in the house.  He was 471.  “I'll never forget that number,” she said.  “I called the pediatrician, who told me to pack a bag for the both of us, and get to the ER.”  The following three days and nights were spent at UMass Memorial Hospital in Worcester.  “It was a whirlwind.  My husband and I were sleep deprived and scared as we were learning how to check his blood, draw up insulin, and inject him,” she said.  “TJ was such a trooper and never complained about all the shots or any of it.”  She told him that he is sick inside and they were learning how to fix it. 

Leaving the hospital, Shannon was worried about how she was going to keep her son alive and healthy.  "It gets better and easier with time, she said."  "Just when you think you can’t, you make it work.”  Ironically, Shannon comes from a family of nurses, but never wanted to become a nurse, because she doesn’t like shots!  TJ tried an insulin pump for a short time, but had issues with his control, and didn’t like it.  “I want my shots back,” he said.  They will try again in the future.


TJ began full day Kindergarten and his numbers were good.  Both of his school nurses have had students with diabetes in the past, but TJ is their youngest so far.  Shannon provided an iPod for the nurses’ office to monitor his CGM.  They check his sugars before lunch and snacks.  His Teacher’s Assistant is a retired nurse who accompanies him to all of his Specials.  Shannon is invited on any field trip, however, one of the two nurses would always attend if needed.


TJ plays Little League and enjoys swimming and hiking with his Dad.  His blood sugar drops when he is active, so they cover him with extra carbs.  He loves ice fishing but must be careful since cold weather can lower blood sugars.   

Advice for other parents

Shannon would advise parents of newly diagnosed T1D children to find a support group and reach out for as much help and guidance as possible.  She is part of an online support group with parents of other 5 year-olds, as well as parents who can provide a heads up about what lies ahead.   

UMass Memorial Care Team   

“They’re always available to help you,” Shannon says.  “Any time, day or night.  They never make me feel like I’m bothering them. The CDEs and nurses are all wonderful.”  She appreciates the help and encouragement his care team provides. “They are there for us every step of the way and can talk me through any issue.  We never feel like we’re alone.”  TJ is a shy boy, but he connected with Dr. Leslie Soyka right away.  “She’s very soft spoken, kind and easy going, and she’s very good with TJ. I cannot say enough good things about his entire care team.”  Since diagnosis, he has become more social due to all the interactions with his care team and caregivers.  They get to see his silly, funny, and larger than life personality. 

Making a difference

Thirty family members and friends participated in the JDRF Walk on a team called “TJ’s Troops.”   On November 14th, World Diabetes Day, his teachers invited all students to wear blue to support TJ.  He wore blue and colored his hair blue every Friday in November for National Diabetes Month.    

During our telephone conversation, TJ's school beeped in to let Shannon know that he was low.  “If he’s below 100, I don’t let him take the bus. I pick him up instead.”  The entire UMass Memorial Diabetes Center of Excellence is proud of TJ and his family for his successful numbers and how they manage his daily care, and life with T1D.

In his own words

When asked about his diabetes, TJ explains, “I take shots because my pancreas broke.  I’m still regular.”  

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