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A brother’s perspective on how a T1D diagnosis shifted his family dynamics

When Blake was 11, his 10-year-old brother, Ethan was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

Hi everyone! My name is Blake, I’m a 21-year-old college student at Florida Gulf Coast University studying math. I’m originally from the Chicagoland area and came down to Fort Myers in the Fall of 2019 for school.

Up north, I live with both my parents and my younger brother, Ethan. Ethan was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in March of 2012, at age 10. As just a third-grader at the time, he really can’t remember a life without diabetes. I can still recall the diagnosis distinctly, though. 

I was in 5th grade at the time (11 years old) and remember the night we found out something was wrong. We were out having dinner at a buffet-style restaurant. As a kid, all-you-can-eat is the coolest way to eat out. I remember how excited the two of us were, having never experienced this before. However, it didn’t take long for me to notice something was up with my brother.

He had no desire to eat and felt very nauseous. From a kid’s perspective, my concern for him was quickly brushed off as I continued to pile my plate. Fortunately for us, my mother’s coworker had a diabetic child and, from a text, was able to identify symptoms and recommend we take my brother to the ER.

 

 

As a kid, all-you-can-eat is the coolest way to eat out. I remember how excited the two of us were, having never experienced this before. However, it didn’t take long for me to notice something was up with my brother.

 

I remember having my brother come home from the ER and I was terrified. I heard the doctor mention that if we aren’t careful, my brother could die at any time. That thought really didn’t sit well with me, as a 5th grader.

As the big brother, I had an internal battle between the fear of my brother’s condition and trying to express strength as reassurance for him.

As time went by, the family slowly adapted to life with a T1D in the family. I started to understand that this wasn’t something temporary, but a condition that we would all live with now for the rest of our lives.

I give my parents a lot of credit for not making me feel neglected provided the amount of attention my brother required. There were certainly times that I felt punished because of Ethan’s condition. I recall being unable to participate in an after-school sports club for reasons I’m still not sure of. I believe my mom had an excuse involving a lack of transportation to and from, but in hindsight, I think it was a financial burden.

I spent a lot of time worrying about if I was going to get diabetes as well. That fear is still around today, but watching my brother develop and learn to live with his condition has given me confidence that I could conquer T1D as well. I will always admire his strength and perseverance throughout his experience.

Today, my brother and I are both active people and were varsity athletes through high school. He is currently attending community college and was recently accepted into Coastal Carolina University to study math as well.

While Ethan certainly has more credibility when talking about experiences as a T1D, I feel like there are not a lot of siblings that have spoken out about their experiences. Type 1 Diabetes is a condition that will change an entire family, and I am just one sibling of a diabetic sharing some of my experiences. I think about how my brother is reluctant to tell people about his diabetes, to not feel different. With that in mind, I wonder how many more siblings of diabetics have tried to remain silent. We too should work towards normalizing T1D and spreading awareness for juvenile diabetes.

Blake