Join Team Olivia!

Written by Isabel Klingshirn, mom of Olivia Klingshirn

“I’m Brave.” This phrase isn’t what ordinary (almost) two year olds have to learn to help them get through tough times. Olivia Klingshirn however, is no ordinary kid.

Olivia’s adventure started on a Friday afternoon in 2015 when she and her parents (Isabel and Mike) were travelling to Washington, D.C. Like any toddler she just had just started to run around, use sentences to communicate, and grow into her large personality. On this particular Friday, she seemed to be coming down with a cold, though we didn’t think much of it considering colds at the beginning of flu season were common at her daycare. The next day she wasn’t getting any better, so Mike and I decided to take her to urgent care and make sure we weren’t dealing with anything more serious. Olivia was exhausted and extremely thirsty, but we were told she probably just trying to fight off a bad virus. The doctor recommended plenty of fluids, Tylenol, and a trip to the emergency room if she got worse.

We got back, fed Olivia lunch, and had her take a nap, hoping she would feel better after some rest. A few hours later, I went up to check on her and discovered she had thrown up in her sleep. Immediately I knew there was no way this could just be a cold. There’s nothing scarier than seeing your baby in this state – I remember when I was cleaning her up after the nap, it seemed like I was just looking through her. We needed help ASAP so Mike and I went straight to the nearest hospital. On the way we talked about how it could be Type 1 but we weren’t sure—we just need answers and help. At the Emergency Room they immediately ran a couple of tests, but everything came back negative. That was until we received her urine and blood glucose tests, however. They found that Olivia was in Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) and had a blood glucose level of over 700 mg/dl, almost three times greater than it should have been. We were shocked. Despite our premonitions, hearing your 21 – month your old has an incurable disease is one of the most devastating words to hear as a parent. Just five months shy of her 2nd birthday, Olivia was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. As we waited to be transported to Children’s National Medical Hospital, Mike and I felt utterly helpless.

Once the diagnosis was confirmed Olivia needed IV’s of fluids and insulin. Since she was in DKA at this time, IV’s were hard to get started and maintain due to the thick consistency of her blood—they had to be redone frequently. Every time Olivia needed a new IV line or blood drawn, there were immediate tears. All of the nurses would say, “I’m sorry” as they were drawing up what they needed, and what crushed Mike and me the most was that Olivia began to repeat, “I’m sorry” as well, not realizing what it meant. We quickly realized since this was going to be Olivia’s new normal, we needed to come up with a better tag line. Mike then told Olivia when she was getting a new IV or shot that she was ‘brave.’ Our idea worked. Soon all the nurses and staff caring for Olivia no longer said, “I’m sorry”, and instead helped establish the “I’m brave” mantra. As we transitioned out the ICU and returned home, we began to see Olivia recover and return back to her normal self, just sweeter and braver.

During our time in the ICU Olivia was given a bear named Rufus from the local Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) chapter. At the time, we used Rufus as a comfort item for Olivia—what almost 2-year-old doesn’t love stuffed bears? But to Mike and I, Rufus was so much more than just a stuffed bear. Rufus armed us with the tools that would connect Olivia with the right resources, allowing her to adapt to her new way of life. Rufus and JDRF became the cornerstone of our new journey with Olivia, and is why we feel compelled to share our story, Olivia’s story, and support an organization that helped our family in a very scary time. We are hopeful that within Olivia’s lifetime that Type One will be turned into ‘Type None’ as JDRF is on the brink of major advances that could make this dream a reality. This is why we run; this is why we formed Team Olivia is Brave. Olivia runs her brave marathon every day, fighting a disease that has no cure. As her support system, we too can run that same marathon to show our support for her BRAVE adventure.

Thank you for your love and support during this journey!


Team Olivia