Words by Heather Gomez & Lia Grosso | Images by Matt Wiebe & Lia Grosso
Sam and Lia Grosso of Toronto’s Cadillac Lounge have an intimate awareness of the Type 1 diabetes community. Their oldest child, Francesco, was diagnosed at two years old. As a result of the incredible support they received from the diabetes team at SickKids Hospital, the Grosso’s resolved to make an annual effort to support the unique challenges faced by families impacted by Type 1 diabetes.
1. How old was your son when he was diagnosed?
Francesco was just over two years old at diagnosis. While many folks would point to the upshot of him being so young and not necessarily remembering life pre-type 1 diabetes, there were definitely unique challenges. Trying to test a two-year-old’s blood multiple times a day and giving insulin was a real challenge. When I think back on the various tactics I had to use just to ensure we could keep him alive it’s heartbreaking. No one who hasn’t have to do it can imagine what’s it’s like to pin your two-year-old down to give an injection. We didn’t have time to feel bad about it or at leSt let ourselves get carried away with mourning his previous life pre T1D. Our responsibility was to ensure he was being checked and getting insulin and managing all that for someone with a very limited vocabulary and unpredictable eating habits.
While my knowledge grew, my concern over leaving my son in the care of others didn't. I went from being a laid back parent to having to be on top of everything. It really does affect everyone. We have come a long way over the years.
2. What sort of an impact did his diagnosis have on your family?
It totally shook our world, but we had to get over that really quickly. We cannot understate what a lifeline the diabetes education team at SickKids was. We knew nothing at all except a family friend who was diagnosed when we were kids and was in terrible shape medically. I was terrified. While my knowledge grew, my concern over leaving my son in the care of others didn’t. I went from being a laid back parent to having to be on top of everything. It really does affect everyone. We have come a long way over the years.
3. What’s your involvement in the Type 1 diabetes community?
Every year we host a Francisco’s Fund event. The annual event has been held at the Cadillac Lounge featuring live music and locally donated items rounding out an amazing silent auction. 2017 will mark the eighth year raising funds for newly diagnosed T1D families.
The event is still growing and is a labour of love. To date we have raised over $30,000 for the diabetes clinic. Funds are allocated solely for T1D families and are disseminated through the intake diagnosis process. We all know how exorbitantly expensive diabetes management supplies are, and thus Francesco’s Fund provides financial support to families in a variation of financial need who are not receiving support via other elsewhere.
Whether it’s because of loss of employment or little medical coverage, we have found that a small financial boost does much more for these families than just provide cash. We have repeatedly heard from members of the diabetes team to families themselves that to receive such assistance at a harrowing time like diagnosis gives families strength and hope. It let’s them know there is a community who understands and supports them during this difficult time and allows them time to get it all together.
4. How has the Type 1 diabetes community helped you and your family?
Living out where we do now I can’t say we are in touch with many other community members, although we do have a couple of people in our lives with T1D. I guess I’d say it’s less organized now living here but every time we are with others experiencing the same things, we all feel less alone. Francesco attends diabetes camp and I didn’t realize how much it meant to him until this past year when he said it was the only time he feels totally normal. I’ve trained as a JDRF mentor and while I never wish this on another family I welcome the opportunity to help any other family experiencing this seismic shift for themselves.
Whether it's because of loss of employment or little medical coverage, we have found that a small financial boost does much more for these families than just provide cash.
5. Do you have any advice for other parents of young kids with Type 1 diabetes?
You will get through this. Promise.
Lia and Sam Grosso are proud of the leaps and bounds their son Francesco has made in his own T1D management, his independence and his particular and unique compassion towards the experiences of others. They credit that awareness to his own personal experiences.
The Grosso family are planning the next Francesco’s Fund event for Saturday May 13th 6-9pm at the Cadillac Lounge. Musical talent provided by Tia Brazda. Tickets are $40 with all proceeds going to the fund.
If anyone is interested in assisting with the event, please contact Lia Grosso directly at 647-291-0550 or firstname.lastname@example.org.