Type 1 Diabetes Treatment is a Team Effort at Borton Magnet Elementary School

3rd grader Aurora (middle) poses with Dawn and Melissa, who help her manage her Type 1 diabetes at school.

Immediately after being dropped off at Borton Elementary Magnet School by her mother, Aurora heads over to the Health Office. She’s got her routine down: check in with either Ray Parkman or Melissa Trout, who will walk her to get her breakfast, come back and eat in the Health Office, take her insulin, and then is walked to class.

Aurora, a third grader, was diagnosed Type 1 diabetes in early 2022. Since then, the health team at Borton has been trying to provide as many resources as possible and guidance to help navigate the diagnosis and make treatment easy for Aurora.

That includes keeping a healthy stock of snacks that Aurora has access to, provided by Ray. They are divided up by need – snacks to eat when Aurora’s sugar is too low or when her sugar is too high, and plenty of water and Gatorade.

At school, Aurora is their responsibility, Ray said. So, he doesn’t want Aurora to have to worry about making sure to she has enough snacks or drinks to make it through the day.

“I want her to have to worry about stuff that kids have to worry about, and then let us worry about the management,” Ray said. “Also, the way we manage it helps her and mom and everyone else.”

When Ray first learned of Aurora’s diabetes diagnosis, he immediately thought of Dawn Fode, who currently works out of Duffy as the Tucson Unified’s lead occupational therapist. Ray and Dawn previously worked together earlier in their TUSD careers, and Ray knew Dawn could provide something he couldn’t – experience living with Type 1 diabetes.

Actually, both Dawn and Melissa were diagnosed when they were young, 3 and 4 years old, respectively. Dawn, along with her service dog Bella, visits Aurora once a month. Melissa is a rotating nurse and splits her time between Borton and two other schools.

But they have both wanted to help Aurora find her new normal, while inspiring her to continue to dream big.

“For me, it’s all about attitude,” Melissa, who was inspired to become a school nurse through her own relationship with her school nurse who helped her with diabetes, said. “Anyone can learn this stuff. But I think you learn so much negative stuff about diabetes that it’s just so important to say ‘Hey, look! I have diabetes. I’ve biked across Iowa. I did all kinds of sports. There’s nothing you can’t do.’ Just trying to show a positive outlook.”

Type 1 diabetes affects about 1 in 400 children, adolescents, and young adults under 20 years of age. Type 2 diabetes is also starting to be more diagnosed amongst children. With those numbers, Melissa said it’s very common for schools around the district to have at least one student with diabetes.

Aurora admits she didn’t know much about diabetes before her diagnosis, but when she learned she has Type 1 diabetes, she was scared. Almost two years after her diagnosis, she’s not scared anymore.

“That was my intent, to help [mitigate] some of that fear, because it’s got to be scary,” Dawn said.

Having Dawn and Melissa has helped Aurora understand that she can continue to live as normal of a life as possible as long as she continues taking care of herself.

On Wednesday, Dawn arrived at her monthly visit with a gift for Melissa and Aurora: bright blue shirts that say, “I Can Do Anything Except Make Insulin.” It was a way to mark the end of November, which is Diabetes Awareness Month.

With the help of the Health Office crew at Borton, Aurora knows she can grow up to be anything she wants. And for now, the dream is to become an artist.

Ray’s goal is to be able to set up Aurora to be able to either manage her own treatment as much as possible by the time she moves on to middle school, so she can be prepared to succeed in a different environment.

“We’re just trying to do what’s best for Aurora and for her day-to-day operation, so she normalizes her life as a Type 1 diabetic,” Ray said. “She’s not having to worry about this or that, we’re taking care of [the management aspect] and all she has to worry about it being a student and that’s it. The adults in the room will take care of everything else around her.”

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