Living with Type 1 Diabetes

Everyday Heroes – The Calabrese Family

Insulin Nation recognizes the everyday heroism of people affected by Type 1 diabetes. We’ve created the Everyday Hero series to profile an individual or family which has gone above and beyond to help the Type 1 diabetes community.

For the first in our Everyday Heroes series, we’d like you to meet Heidi and Jason Calabrese. Their son, Andrew, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 3. Though the family admits that the diagnosis was life-altering, they’ve decided to utilize their experience to act as advocates for others in the Type 1 community.

Five years ago, Heidi created a San Diego-based Facebook page as a resource and support group for those who either have Type 1 or care for someone with Type 1. She often has been known to respond to messages on the page at all hours of the night and spend one to two hours a day responding to posts.

“We’re up a lot in the middle of the night, so I’ll see a few other moms that are up, and we start messaging back and forth about whatever is going on. It’s a 24-hour disease,” Heidi says.

She also volunteers as part of a local family health network, which provides peer-to-peer support for families with children affected by serious health conditions. Heidi traces her desire to help other families with Type 1 to the first phone call she received of her son’s diagnosis from another “D-mom.” This volunteer called Heidi with the news, and then calmly and patiently answered the Calabreses’ many questions.

A health network “is for families who have kids with Type 1,” she says. “It’s a chance for families to talk with other families who’ve dealt with it for a few years. If they have questions they can talk to a parent and get a different perspective.”

Jason is a founding member of the Nightscout Foundation, and has played a significant role in this growing homegrown technology movement. Nightscout participants are focused on making blood sugar readings accessible on tech platforms, as well as creating new tech solutions for better blood sugar management. Recently, Jason has devoted much of his time to integrating Nightscout with OpenAPS, an artificial pancreas system which uses an insulin pump and data from a continuous glucose monitor to adjust basal insulin. Andrew, now 9, became one of the first children with Type 1 to use OpenAPS in a school setting. OpenAPS has given Heidi and Jason more peace of mind while Andrew is at school or asleep.

“OpenAPS is there when I can’t be; it’s cut the time Andrew spends below 80 mg/dL in half. We wake up to smooth lines on Nightscout most mornings,” Jason says.

The Calabreses’ children also are involved in the Type 1 community. Andrew participates in the JDRF Youth Ambassador Program alongside his twin sister Katie; they both love making signs for the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes bike race. Heidi will ride in this year’s El Tour de Tucson for the sixth time.

In speaking with Heidi and Jason, it’s clear they are humble about their accomplishments. They just want to help others.

“Thinking back to what we went through, if we could minimize that stress for other people – that’s what I’d really like to do,” says Heidi.

Would you like to nominate someone for the Everyday Hero series? If so, contact our editor at cidlebrook@epscomm.com.

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Courtney Major currently attends Emerson College where she majors in Writing, Literature, and Publishing with a minor in Marketing Communications.

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