Thatcher Heldring, freelance writer and author focused on Type 1 Diabetes

Thatcher Heldring

Thatcher Heldring is a freelance writer and author focused on Type 1 Diabetes, environmental education, and other issues related to children and health. He has also partnered with clients working on literacy, sustainable communities, youth leadership development, and health policy. Most recently he was the Director of Communications and Creative Services at IslandWood, the Seattle-based outdoor learning organization. He is also the author of four sports novels for young readers and the father of a 10-year-old T1 and a 13-year-old T3. You can reach Thatcher through his website at www.spitballinc.com.

Raising a child with type 1 diabetes takes patience.

Blood sugars rise and fall unpredictably, affecting nearly every aspect of daily life. It takes attention to detail. As the parents of 10-year-old Peter, who was diagnosed with the chronic autoimmune disease just before his third birthday, we are constantly counting carbs, calculating dosages and correcting our own mistakes. More than anything, it takes help. Nobody can do it alone.

Family, friends, healthcare providers, teachers, coaches, siblings, scientists and sometimes even strangers on the street are all part of a support network that helps us manage the highs and lows of life with type 1 diabetes. In the spirit of the season, we’d like to hand out a few valentines to the rock stars (literally, in one case) who make the days just a bit easier. 

Our first valentine goes to Sir Frederick Banting, the early 20th century scientist who pioneered the use of insulin as life-sustaining medicine for type 1 diabetes patients. Today, thanks to Banting and his team, millions of people of all ages get the insulin their bodies need to convert sugar into energy, either by injection or through wearable pumps. We are also grateful to all the researchers at BRI and in labs around the world who are making discoveries that are revolutionizing treatments for type 1 diabetes.

Insulin may keep a person with type 1 diabetes alive, but it’s the people in our lives who get us up in the morning. That’s definitely true for Peter, who has an insatiable social appetite. While young children without a functioning pancreas are at-risk of dangerous low blood sugars, Peter has been able to go on playdates like other kids, thanks in large part to the parents who have put childhood friendship above their own fears and welcomed him and his buzzing, beeping devices for playdates, birthday parties and movie nights. To everyone who has ever helped keep Peter safe away from home, this valentine is for you.

Our next valentines go to singer Nick Jonas and professional soccer player Jordan Morris, two superstars who wear type 1 diabetes on their sleeves (or just under their sleeves). Growing up knowing you are different than your buddies is tough. Jonas and Morris have helped millions of kids feels like they are part of an exclusive club for people with type 1 diabetes. Does that really matter? Well, choose the thing that makes you most self-conscious and then imagine seeing that same thing worn like a badge of honor by an international celebrity. Yes, it matters. Peter-and-his-father-Thatcher-Heldring

The last valentine is for milkshakes. Is there a more perfect concoction of fast-acting sugars and metabolism-slowing fats to stabilize a falling blood sugar? There is not. Thank you milkshakes.

Wait, we have one valentine left in our bag.

Peter, this one is for you. For almost eight years, you have put up with ten thousand pokes, pops and pricks, been pulled from the game again and again to treat a low blood sugar, explained patiently to friends and strangers what that thing on your arm is, and done it all without ever completely losing your s**t. At the end of the day, you’re not a superhero, you’re a kid - one of more than 200,000 Americans under 20 living with type 1 diabetes, and facing these challenges every day. You’re our kid, and we’re proud of you. Have a milkshake, Pete, you’ve earned it.

Category: 
Community Stories

February 12, 2021

Like What You Read?

Stay informed! Be sure you receive regular research updates. Subscribe

Join the Conversation

This blog does not  provide medical advice, nor is it a substitute
for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. 

Every story builds and strengthens our community. Whether you are living with a disease or care about someone affected by these diseases, tell us about it.

Share Your Story

Participating in medical research is a generous act essential to improving the care, treatment and understanding of disease.

Volunteer

Every gift is important and helps our scientists pursue lifesaving breakthroughs.

Donate