How One Lancaster County Family Is Taking on Life with Type 1 Diabetes

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Kelly Harnly noticed her eight-year-old son, Mason, was excessively thirsty and urinating frequently—symptoms her background in nursing helped her recognize as a red flag for diabetes. She contacted his pediatrician, who had Mason come in for an appointment.

Mason was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which was previously known as juvenile diabetes since it is typically diagnosed in children and young adults. Unlike type 2 diabetes, which may be prevented with dietary and lifestyle changes, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack the beta cells in the pancreas. Beta cells produce the hormone insulin, which enables the body to transport glucose (sugars from the carbohydrates we eat) from the bloodstream into cells to use for energy. Because people with type 1 diabetes do not produce insulin, they must inject it multiple times a day.

Diabetes boot camp
Lancaster General (LG) Health/Penn Medicine has an alliance with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), one of the top-ranked pediatric hospitals in the country, which allowed Mason’s LG Health pediatrician to seamlessly refer him for specialized care by a pediatric endocrinologist.

The family traveled to CHOP, where they spent three days learning a new way to take care of Mason.

“We called it boot camp,” Kelly recalls. “Our team included a pediatric endocrinologist, social worker, diabetes educator, and nutritionist. They showed us how to care for Mason and helped us get comfortable giving him multiple daily injections of insulin.”

Comprehensive care close to home
Mason and his family have adjusted to life with type 1 diabetes. Six months after his diagnosis, Mason began using an insulin pump, which he wears 24/7, removing it only to shower or swim or when he needs to change the insertion site. The computerized pump is programmed to deliver insulin when needed, which significantly reduces the number of injections Mason receives.

His family is grateful for the affiliation between LG Health and CHOP, which provides Mason access to a CHOP pediatric endocrinologist, nurse practitioner, and diabetes educator right here in Lancaster. The family visits the CHOP Care Network Specialty Care Center at LG Health’s Suburban Pavilion for regular diabetes checkups.

“The diabetes educator [at Suburban Pavilion] is fantastic. She initiated Mason’s insulin pump therapy with us, and she makes sure we have everything we need to feel comfortable with this new way of taking care of him,” Kelly says. “The entire team provided reassurance that we are doing a good job, that life goes on, and [that] Mason is going to be okay.”

Diabetes won’t slow him down
Mason does not feel any different from other kids his age. He lives an active life and enjoys playing golf, throwing a football with his dad, going fishing, and swimming.

“He has loved golf since he was old enough to stand,” says Mason’s father, Graham.

Inspired by the knowledge that some professional athletes have type 1 diabetes, Mason won’t let his diagnosis interfere with his dream of becoming a pro one day himself.

“My goals for golf are to be better than Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Rickie Fowler,” says Mason, who also shares the following advice: “If you have type 1 diabetes, do everything you used to do.”

The CHOP Care Network Specialty Care Center in Lancaster provides pediatric subspecialty care in cardiology, endocrinology, pulmonology, neurology, gastroenterology, and more. Visit LGHealth.org/CHOP to learn more or call
717-544-0375 to schedule an appointment.