Success Stories

You're not alone. Others have faced - and defeated - discrimination because of diabetes. Here are some recent examples.

Nico Gast's Story

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Nico Gast Photo

Jodi Gast, of Hollywood, Florida, was trying to hold back tears.

It was October 2014, and she had to take her 6-year-old son, Nico, to the emergency room because he was sick. At the hospital, she learned that the cause of his illness was type 1 diabetes. She could not even bring herself to say the word, diabetes. But, that diagnosis meant that Jodi and her husband had to quickly learn about diabetes, including how to care for Nico on a daily basis, give him insulin shots and spot the warning signs of a diabetes emergency.

After learning that Nico had diabetes, the family had to make changes, including Jodi adjusting her daily work schedule.

The school feared a lawsuit if any of its school staff gave Nico his shots, so Jodi became his caregiver at school. She traveled from her home office to Nico's school around noon each day to give him an insulin shot. This continued for several months. And because nobody at the school was trained about diabetes, Nico was also unable to participate in after-school programs and activities.

The entire situation was frustrating for the family and seemed unfair to Nico. Then Jodi contacted the American Diabetes Association for help.

A Legal Advocate at the Association (a lawyer experienced in diabetes discrimination) let Jodi know about Nico's legal rights. Under federal law, Nico's school had to provide him proper diabetes care. Once Jodi was aware of the law, she shared this information with school staff.

Although the school did not admit it had been wrong, the administrators DID allow Nico's three teachers to be trained in diabetes care. A wonderful nurse, whose grandson also has diabetes, volunteered to train the teachers. Other school staff also volunteered to be trained. "The teachers were given the confidence to try, and they succeeded," says Jodi.

Nico now checks his own blood glucose level and gives himself shots. He sometimes needs help with aspects of his care, like figuring out the amount of insulin to use, but things are on track. Nico turns 7 on August 26, 2015, and he will start second grade in September. One of the teachers originally trained in his care has left the school. But other teachers and staff have been trained, so everything is set for the new school year.

"We all learned a great deal and things have gotten easier. We are very thankful that we received help and support from the American Diabetes Association.We hope that other parents in similar positions learn
about the help available." - Jodi Gast

Ella Burns' Story

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Ella Burns Photo

"You made SUCH a big difference in our lives. Thank You."

That was the message sent from Beth Burns, mother of six-year old Ella, to one of the Association's Legal Advocates. Ella's parents had enrolled her in a Snohomish School District (Washington) program, held once per week for home-schooled children. Ella has type 1diabetes and needs to take insulin on a regular basis to stay well. The school needed to confirm that someone would be available to help Ella with insulin and/or glucagon, if she had a medical emergency. The school assured Ella's parents that a school nurse, who worked half-days at the program, would be available.

Ella was all set for the program, but the weekend before her first day, the school nurse called and said that the school could not care for Ella and was not required to do so.

The school's position was that because the program was a "choice" program, it did not have to provide any school services or modifications above those that were already in place for the students.

The school had withdrawn its promise for Ella's care, and that meant that she would not be able to attend the program. So, Beth contacted the American Diabetes Association for help.

Beth learned that Ella had rights. Under federal law (the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act), the school was required to meet Ella's medical needs and allow her to attend the program. With the help of the Association's Legal Advocate, Beth wrote a letter to the head of the school district's Special Education Program. After a meeting to discuss the issue, they were able to work things out.

"What you do truly changes lives—Ella LOVES her program. Instead of her first lesson in the 'real world' being that 'diabetes holds you back from doing what you want to do,' it's been one of inclusion and support by her community." - Beth Burns

Marissa's Story

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Four-year-old Marissa was happily attending a Head Start preschool program in Philadelphia. This publicly funded program was a calm and safe place for Marissa to be during the week, since her family was struggling with health and financial issues. Her dad uses a wheelchair and her mom had been diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. So attending this program was good for Marissa and good for her family. School was a place where she could learn, have fun and play with other children.

But everything changed after Marissa was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

After learning about Marissa's diagnosis, the school district said that she could not come back to the Head Start program. The family was told that, since there was nobody to provide diabetes care throughout the school day, the only way Marissa could attend was if they hired and paid for a nurse themselves. But that was simply not possible. So—just like that—Marissa was out of school and stuck at home.

For the next few months, Marissa’s mother, grandmother and other family members tried and tried to figure something out. They called their state representative, contacted education groups, anything to get Marissa back to school. But nobody could help them. Tired and frustrated, they thought nothing could be done.

Then a family friend suggested that they call the American Diabetes Association. They finally got the help they needed.

A Legal Advocate (a lawyer experienced with diabetes discrimination) at the Association let the family know that Marissa had legal rights. By denying her the ability to attend school, the school district had broken federal law. The Legal Advocate referred Marissa's case to Alan Yatvin, a Philadelphia member of the Association’s Advocacy Attorney Network. At no cost to the family, Mr. Yatvin reached out to the school district. He presented information about the law and tried to work with school officials to solve the problem. When that didn't work, he filed a lawsuit in federal court demanding that the school district provide diabetes care for Marissa at school and allow her to return. The district then backed down and agreed to assign a full-time nurse to the school.

After almost five months, Marissa was finally back in school.

Sadly, her mother, Evelyn, died two weeks after Marissa returned to school. Although it was a hard time for the whole family, it helped them to know that Marissa was safe at school, where she belonged.

"I am disappointed that school officials didn't understand this terrible denial of Marissa's basic rights. But I am so happy that with the resources of the American Diabetes Association, we were able to help this sweet little girl and her wonderful family. The Association's Legal Advocacy program made the difference." - Alan Yatvin

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Read What Others Are Saying About the Legal Advocacy Program

"Without the legal guidance offered by the American Diabetes Association, this matter could have been ignored. But it wasn't ignored. Thank you to everyone who helped to make this program truly safe for every child who has diabetes." — Parent of child with diabetes

"I found you when I was at my worst and, if not for your help, I would have been lost." — Employee with diabetes

"I should have called sooner…I think I was being a little too patient. I am very grateful for your support and expertise in this area. I cannot thank you enough!" — Parent of child with diabetes

"Just wanted to tell you thank you for speaking with me last week regarding my patients and the suggestions you provided. I received the packet of information you sent me and will make it available to our patients." — Health care provider

"The Association is remarkable for standing up for the rights of people like me who have 'invisible' disabilities that people so often overlook. Thank you, American Diabetes Association, and your amazing Legal Advocates." — Employee with diabetes

"I am very thankful for the American Diabetes Association services to help families make sure their children are safe and treated fairly. I wish all parents caring for children with diabetes were aware of their rights." — Parent of child with diabetes

"I cannot thank you enough for your assistance through this ordeal. I likely would not be employed right now without it. I will use my first check to become an Association member and support your organization." — Employee with diabetes

"I should have called sooner…I think I was being a little too patient. I am very grateful for your support and expertise in this area. I cannot thank you enough!" — Parent of child with diabetes

"Thanks so much for all of your assistance. I can't tell you how much it meant." — Employee with diabetes

"I want to thank you for the time you spent visiting with me on the phone recently. It is extremely encouraging to visit with someone that understands diabetes and is willing to provide information regarding this disease… All of us involved appreciate your willingness to keep an open file. This is the first time the family has experienced a friendly relationship, and we sincerely appreciate your helpful attitude." — Advocate for inmate with diabetes

  • Last Reviewed: October 1, 2013
  • Last Edited: January 29, 2015

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Diabetes Forecast