The Beast That Lives Within

Our Family’s Experience with Type 1 Diabetes

Lisa Gastaldo
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readJul 27, 2015

For years, I lived in constant fear that I would inadvertently kill my own child.

It wouldn’t have taken much.

A simple error in judgement or an innocent miscalculation could result in life-ending consequences.

In 1996, my son, Albert, became one of the 40,000 Americans diagnosed each year with Type I Diabetes (T1D). Not so long ago, that diagnosis would have been regarded as an immediate death sentence. Still, the National Institutes of Health states nearly 7% of T1Ds will die from the disease within 25 years of diagnosis. My son was two and a half when he was diagnosed. That means he has a 1 in 14 chance of not making it to his 28th birthday.

Currently, 1.25M Americans are living with T1D.

By 2050, that number is expected to grow to 5 million.

When Albert was a toddler, he developed the stomach flu, a common ailment for a young child. However, this time was not so typical. He couldn’t keep even an ounce of fluid down. His eyes were sunken and he was rapidly losing weight. Soon, he became lethargic and dehydrated, so off to the doctor we went.

I’m the kind of mother who mentally runs through a list of possibilities in order to prepare myself. Best case scenario — he would spend a couple days in the hospital getting IV fluids. Worse case — meningitis or even leukemia. My mind comprised a checklist of what to do for each potential outcome.

Ordinarily, Albert would run down the hall to greet his pediatrician with a hug. This time, I had to carry him. As we approached his doctor, I saw the smile on her face vanish before she quickly caught herself. I wondered why she kept leaving the room during my son’s examination. I found out later she didn’t want us to see her crying.

She announced that he was diabetic and needed to be immediately transported by ambulance to the hospital. Her words struck like a vicious kick to my gut. I could hardly catch my breath. T1D was not on my list.

I have come to learn that Albert is considered one of the lucky ones. His pediatrician recognized the warning…



Lisa Gastaldo
Human Parts

Writer. Mother. Widow. Survivor. Looking for life’s perfect fit at