Meet the Delaney family — all six of them! — Heather and Vinny (Mom and Dad) and their four children: Linc, 10; Ella, 8; Charlie, 7; and Molly 3. Two members of this energetic, fun-loving bunch, Charlie and Ella, have type 1 diabetes.
Charlie was diagnosed when he was 13 months old, and Ella was diagnosed when she was 7 years old. It is not common for siblings to develop type 1. There is only a 5 percent chance that first degree relatives of a person with type 1 will also develop the disease.
The Delaney family has decided that it’s up to them to make the best of it. They work together, have fun together, manage their diabetes together; and strive for the best diabetes care possible. As a result, Ella and Charlie are thriving!
Both kids are incredibly active — Charlie plays flag football, soccer, street hockey, basketball, soccer, lacrosse and baseball. Ella does dance, gymnastics and takes art classes, and plays soccer, field hockey, basketball and softball.
Committed to good diabetes care
Having two children with type 1 diabetes has had an exponential effect on the workload that goes along with diabetes management. Every day, diabetes care begins long before the sun comes up — at 3 a.m.!
Each child is tested in the middle of the night, and depending on the results, Heather has to recall what activities her children did, what they ate, and how they felt that day to decide how best to treat them. It’s difficult for Mom to go back to sleep afterward, without worrying whether she made the right treatment decisions.
As committed as Heather and Vinny are to good diabetes care, they also recognize the need to find balance in their lives, and adjust to their “new normal.” They keep everyone active, making sure the right child gets to the right activity and that both of their kids with type 1 get to all of their appointments with the Diabetes Center at CHOP.
As in most families, the Delaney family experiences sibling rivalry — the kids challenge each other to see who has the highest number or the lowest number, or the largest ketones. Yet, Ella and Charlie are there to support each other, too. When Ella wakes up with large ketones and isn’t feeling well, Charlie says, “I know exactly how you feel,” as only a brother with type 1 can.
Teaching others and getting involved
The family also does their best to incorporate diabetes into their lives and take opportunities to learn more about it themselves as well as to teach others.
Ella and Charlie recently did a science fair project called, “Blood Sugar and Me.” Charlie, Ella, and their father Vinny, (who does not have diabetes) all ate the same thing at about the same time for one day, testing blood sugar before and after meals. Ella and Charlie hypothesized that they would have highs and lows, and Vinny would stay in range. While Ella and Charlie’s blood sugars went up and down (even with their insulin), Vinny’s stayed in a much tighter range. It was a great way to teach other students that managing blood sugars all day is hard work!
Heather is very active with the CHOP Diabetes Parent Support Network, serving as secretary to the group. They also attend the annual DPSN picnic.
Ella and Charlie also like to attend diabetes events. They participated in the 5th Annual Diabetes Art Day in February 2014. Their art depicts living their normal life like other kids; playing football, doing gymnastics, flying kites, just with a little more effort and a few more supplies. They’re living life with hope in their hearts!