Fighting Diabetes as a Family

“At our house, it’s almost like I’m the unusual one. But one of the hard things can be that they are so normal and do everything normally. It’s easy to forget that it’s actually a serious disease and you really have to be careful. A lot of that is the behind-the-scenes work on our end.”

Kara Middleton rides a horse.
Kara Middleton was diagnosed with diabetes at age 5. An insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor help her manage the disease.

For the Middleton family, diabetes is their normal. JC (dad), Kara (big sister) and Max (little brother) all live with Type 1 diabetes. Lisa (mom) is the only member of the family who doesn’t have the disease. It’s a condition they all manage together, as a family—with a little help from the team at Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center.

Max, Kara and Lisa with diabetes educators at the Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center
Kara, Max and Lisa work with diabetes educators Angela Hepner and Deb Howard at Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center.

“Our health care team has been critical,” Lisa said. “They respond to emails immediately, they are available for any issue, and both Angela and Deb always reassure us that we’re doing a good job. They are really important for handling those things I just can’t fix on my own. They really have become like our extended family.”

Diabetes educators Angela Hepner and Deb Howard.
“Miss Deb and Miss Angela are super nice,” Max said.

Advances in diabetes monitoring technology have helped the Middleton family better handle their diabetes. Max, Kara and JC all manage their blood sugar levels through insulin pumps, and Max and Kara both use Dexcom continuous glucose monitors. If either kid’s blood sugar levels go off balance, their monitors send alerts to Lisa and JC’s cell phones. The automatic monitoring and insulin pumps have allowed Max and Kara to live a more carefree childhood, and inspired JC to get a pump himself.

Max and Kara Middleton show off their glucose monitors and insulin pumps.
Max and Kara show off their glucose monitors and insulin pumps.

“My children got the pumps first, and I saw that they were able to continue to do everything and didn’t have to carry with them a bag that’s got insulin, syringes and alcohol swabs—all of this extra stuff that I was packing with me all of the time,” JC said. “With a pump, it’s all self-contained; it gave me back so much freedom.”

Kara Middleton astride her horse.
“I can still do everything other kids can do even though I have Type 1,” Kara said.

That freedom has allowed JC, Max and Kara to pursue their favorite activities. JC is a long-distance cyclist, regularly enjoying 30- or 40-mile rides. Nine-year-old Kara love sports and plays volleyball, soccer and horseback riding. Max is an excited, active five-year-old, playing tee ball and roughhousing with his family. Diabetes doesn’t slow any of them down.

Max Middleton pitches a baseball.
“If you didn’t know he was diabetic, you would never guess it.”

“Diabetes is a lot of work,” said Angela Hepner, an educator at Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center. “There are times it’s not fun and it’s frustrating, but the good news is your child can be healthy and normal. You just have a few extra steps to make that happen. Kids are resilient. If you give it all you’ve got, they’re going to be OK.”

Max Middleton during an office visit.
Thanks to regular visits with the team at Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center, Max is a happy, active five-year-old.

Despite the work involved, and the seriousness of the disease, the Middletons maintain a positive outlook. Armed with knowledge, education, technology and a team of experts, even five-year-old Max understands how to live with diabetes.

“Miss Deb and Miss Angela are super nice,” Max said. “I like that we eat sugar and defeat sugar. When I’m high, I dose. When my Dexcom beeps, I’m too low, so I eat. When I crash, I eat lots and lots of candy.”

The Middleton family enjoys a hug outdoors under the trees.

See how we care for patients like the Middletons at UK HealthCare’s Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center.