But when an Autoimmune disease impacts every aspects of life, every person in your life matters
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.

Recently I was at a fundraiser for ConnecT1D, a nonprofit that offers community programs for families and adults living with Type 1 Diabetes (full disclosure: I joined the board of ConnecT1D in 2017).

It was an impressive crowd. Endocrinologists from Seattle Children’s mingled in a room with researchers from BRI and other local leaders in Type 1 Diabetes care and research.

There is no doubt many of the preventions, treatments and cures to come will spring from their collective brilliance. In a typical banquet setting, the only question might be which doctor or scientist would walk to the podium to accept an achievement award. Whose medical advances or groundbreaking research would we honor that evening?

And, yet, the night belonged to Alex Bautz, a young architect who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 23 and has since tirelessly given back to the community that has given him a sense of belonging, acceptance, and support.  

The role reversal struck a chord with me.  The sight of the decorated and degreed leaders of world-class labs and hospitals saluting Alex, an extraordinarily ordinary champion, was a reminder than anyone can make an impact on a community. It also made me wonder about the other unsung heroes in our lives who deserve to take a bow.  

Certainly, there is a short list of champions in the life of any family living with type 1 diabetes.

The endocrinology doctors, nurses, and educators who geek out with us on basal rates. The researchers at places like Benaroya Research Institute, working relentlessly toward better treatments and preventions. The school nurses who keep our kids healthy and learning day after day. And the extended family members who are always there.  I'm grateful to all of these people. 

But when a chronic disease impacts every aspects of life, every person in your life matters.

To the ordinary people in our lives, this one’s for you.


  • For every attending physician, floor nurse, or grandmother who goes beyond the call of duty, there is another champion who may not even realize he or she is doing something extraordinary.  
  • To every parent who has invited a child with type 1 diabetes over for a playdate even though needles, pumps, and pokes might be outside your comfort zone, thank you.
  • To the mother who called from the grocery store before a playdate to ask if there was anything special she could get for our T1D son to eat, thank you. To the coach who goes out of his way to learn the signs of low blood sugars, thank you.
  • To every coworker who understands just enough about type 1 diabetes to say, Go home. We got this. Thank you.
  • To the older sister who makes funny faces during site changes or remembers to pack the kit on a busy morning, thank you.
  • To the server who tracks down the carb counts for a kid’s meal at a restaurant. Thank you.
  • To the second-grader who waits for his friend to get his blood sugar checked at the nurse’s office so they can go out to recess toTo the second-grader who waits for his friend to get his blood sugar checked at the nurse’s office so they can go out to recess together, thank you. gether, thank you.

These invisible acts of kindness matter. They make bad days good. They make good days great.  They make the universe smaller. I wish all these quiet deeds could be recognized, honored and memorialized with standing ovations, billboards and renamed hospital wings.  All I can do instead is say thank you – you are doing more than you know. 

Living With A Disease

June 7, 2018

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