Search for a Cure: Type 1 Diabetes
Brian Frett
Brian Frett
Sr. Project Manager

On May 4th, with the support of their family, many of their friends, and community, Liam’s family will be walking together in the JDRF One Walk to raise funds for T1D research. If you have the capacity to give, your contributions to this research are most welcomed and greatly appreciated.

Brian Frett’s youngest son, Liam, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) in February 2018. Frett, a senior project manager at PRA, and his family are committed to doing whatever they can to support him and those with T1D to manage their care until hopefully a cure is found. He shares his story:

How did you initially suspect something was wrong?

Liam had a virus with a cough in January of last year. When his cough subsided, he experienced excessive thirst that we initially attributed to him soothing his throat from having had the persistent cough. When the excessive thirst did not abate, and a stomach ache began, we looked into these symptoms and what they could mean. Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) was flagging in all of our research, and thus we immediately scheduled Liam to see his Primary Care Physician. At the visit with his PCP, a very high glucose value was confirmed, and we were immediately sent to Rady’s Children’s Hospital in San Diego for admission. At this point, we knew the diagnosis that awaited.

On May 4th, with the support of their family, many of their friends, and community, Liam’s family will be walking together in the JDRF One Walk to raise funds for T1D research. If you have the capacity to give, your contributions to this research are most welcomed and greatly appreciated.

What was your reaction when you received Liam’s diagnosis?

Our initial reaction was disbelief and denial. No one on either side of my or my wife’s family has Type 1 Diabetes, which is a genetic chronic condition. We thought that they must have it wrong, and that he would ultimately be discharged with a clean bill of health. Letting reality set in, that Liam in fact had this chronic condition without a cure, we understood that our lives would be forever changed. Our next step was to learn as much about T1D as possible and become champions for Liam to make sure that this diagnosis did not define him. We wanted to become empowered with having the best available care methods to manage it.

How did you explain his diagnosis and how is he doing?

Liam was diagnosed at age 6, and has since turned 8 in April. We explained to him that his immune system got confused and accidently destroyed certain cells in his pancreas that made insulin. We informed him that insulin is essential to his body in order to process his food into energy, and that since his body was no longer making enough insulin we had to give it to him via an injection. It was difficult to explain to him that we needed to keep constant oversight of him. This oversight includes checking his glucose values multiple times a day, that we had to keep close counts of how much food he ate (to account for the carbohydrates he consumed), and that he would need to receive at least two injections of insulin a day. Liam is a brave boy and has handled this as best as I could imagine someone his age taking it. Liam is still of the impression that this is temporary and will ultimately go away. It breaks our hearts that as of now, this is not the case. However, there is promising new research in the pipeline – and this brings us hope.

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As a parent, what concerns you the most about your son’s diagnosis?

Our greatest concern is for Liam’s quality of life, and for him to not be held back from anything that he wants to do. He has his whole life ahead of him, and we want to be sure that he defines his life, not this chronic condition. We have learned of many professional athletes and Olympians who have T1D, and this brings hope that Liam will not be restricted in fulfilling a full and active life.

What advice would you give other parents with children who are newly diagnosed with T1D?

Our advice would be to stay calm and positive. This chronic condition was not the fault of anything that you did or did not do, so there is no need to try to find an answer of what you could have done differently to prevent this. It will be stressful, requiring constant oversight. However, once your new routine is established, you will adjust and it will be the new normal. There is no shame in this condition, and certainly no need to hide the fact that it exists, so being open and transparent with others is critical – especially so they can help oversee your child if he or she is not feeling right. We would also advise to learn as much as possible about T1D to fully understand it, and to not hold back your questions. Utilize all available resources; they are there to help you, especially your Endocrinology team, JDRF, and of course family, friends, and your child’s school.

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As someone who is in the business of bringing new therapies to market, how has this diagnosis changed your perspective on the need for better therapies/cure?

I am currently involved in managing several pediatric genetic chronic condition studies at PRA. I have always been passionate about the work I do, but our diagnosis with Liam has added a new personal perspective that gives me increased drive and ambition in what I do each day. I have new empathy for the families of the subjects on my trials, and this motivates me each day to advance new therapies to market to improve the lives of those children that live with it.

Getting a diagnosis like this can be difficult; where did you turn for help?

The support system from our Endocrinology team at Rady’s Children’s Hospital is simply amazing. We have direct and immediate access to the various care providers, including dieticians, to help us navigate through this new way of life. There are many amazing devices available today that help us manage our care of Liam. He is currently on a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), which provides us with real time glucose values every five minutes with trending data, so we know if Liam is heading too high or too low with his glucose values where we may need to intervene with action. This has eliminated many of the finger sticks to check his values, as we now get constant readings straight to our phones with high and low audible alerts. We have also just received an insulin pump that will administer him appropriate amounts of insulin as needed throughout the day, rather than relying on a couple of injections to balance his glucose in range. Additionally, we have become very involved with the JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). This organization funds research that transforms the lives of people with T1D. They are on a mission to find a cure – and will not stop until one is found. Until a cure is found, they continue to drive scientific progress that delivers new treatments and therapies that make day-to-day life with T1D easier, safer, and healthier.

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