His mother didn’t share the pediatrician’s suspicions, but Jack Wright knew something was wrong. He could tell she had been crying when she had him pulled out of class to pick him up at school. They headed straight for the emergency department at Connecticut Children’s, where doctors confirmed he had Type 1 diabetes.
“I thought my life was over,” Jack says of that nerve wracking day in seventh grade.
He soon discovered that was not the case. The team at the ER jumped into action and started insulin right away. Jack was admitted to the hospital and soon got a visit from a Child Life specialist, who assured him that he could still play soccer and do the things he enjoyed.
One thing Jack enjoyed was playing the French horn and he had a school concert that night. He told the specialist he was the only French horn in the concert band and it was really important for him to be there.
She got it and after consulting the medical team, gave Jack the green light to go. When his mom, Linda Wright, added the family’s traditional post-concert trip for ice cream to the mix, the specialist approved that too. She then taught Jack how to monitor his blood sugar and inject himself with insulin, and arranged to see them the next day.
“That pretty much represents how Connecticut Children’s has helped me,” says Jack. “They taught me diabetes doesn’t have to prevent you from leading a normal life; that it’s still possible.”
Linda says she will always remember the faces of Jack’s friends when he took out his glucometer at the ice cream shop and pricked his finger for the first time to check his blood sugar.
“His friends thought it was cool,” she says. “Connecticut Children’s made that possible. They put the care in his hands, put the responsibility in his hands by saying, ‘if you want to eat ice cream, you can and here’s how you do it.’”
Jack has come a long way since then. Now, 20, he’s in his senior year at Hamilton College, where he’s a double major in Environmental Studies and Public Policy. He’s planning a career as an environmental educator and has traded his French horn for an acoustic guitar.
The support he received through the Diabetes Program at Connecticut Children’s helped him get there, Jack says. The programs for teens introduced him to other kids with diabetes and helped him understand he wasn’t alone. Later he attended College Night, an annual forum held each summer, at which college-bound diabetic teens can ask diabetic college students questions about what to expect.
“It was nice to have people explaining things and sharing tips and tricks,” he says. “You don’t have to worry about editing your questions. It’s an opportunity to talk about alcohol, relationships, intimacy and all those things that are part of life.”
Now Jack is one of the college students sharing tips on College Night. He is active in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the College Support Network, a diabetic peer support and advocacy group on college campuses around the nation. He still gets check-ups at Connecticut Children’s until he transitions to an adult provider after college. He says he’ll miss the program when he does.
“To be able to sit down with my endocrinologist and discuss whatever is on my mind; to be able to email my doctor with questions and stay in touch by email. It really is exceptional care.”