Undefined by Diabetes | Cincinnati Children's


Aiden Vanderbilt was 6 when his parents first noticed something was off. He was thirsty and needed to use the restroom what seemed like all the time. He could be lightheaded and weak, super-hungry, or he’d skip meals altogether.

A trip to the doctor gave them a diagnosis nobody wanted to hear. Like more than a million Americans, Aiden has Type 1 Diabetes.

Tammy Vanderbilt, Aiden’s mom: “At first, we were shocked. It was Easter weekend, and all I could think about was, ‘Wow, our lives are over. Now we have to all be sugar free and monitor every bit of food that goes in a 6-year-old’s mouth.’ But it was very quick upon admission to the hospital that a team of dietitians, nurses, doctors, social workers reassured us that that was not the journey anymore and that they would be there to walk us through the education.”

Six years later, Aiden is learning to monitor his blood sugar and continue to do the things he loves, like playing baseball. He sees his diabetes team at Cincinnati Children’s every three months and knows if he has questions, they’re just a phone call away.

Aiden Vanderbilt, 12, Diabetes patient: “To control my diabetes, I have an insulin pump.”

And just like professional athletes who have the disease, Aiden takes it in stride.

Aiden: “Normally, I’d have my pump around my waist, but then, when Adam Duvall moved onto the Reds, I saw that he kept it in his back pocket. And I tried it in one game, and I just really liked it, and I’ve been doing that since.”

But it hasn’t always been this easy to adjust to being a kid with a lifelong disease. He saw his friend, 8-year-old Matthew Jester’s life cut short in 2013. The Ross Township boy died in his sleep.

Aiden: “It’s something that drives me, but it’s also something that still scares me. I can’t really ever forget about it because it’s always gonna be there. Every time I go to bed, sometimes I think, ‘What if I just don’t wake up in the morning?’”

Having diabetes has made Aiden grow up quickly. He hopes for a future with a cure. And he wants people to see him for more than just his disease.

Aiden: “I don’t want it to define me because then everyone will just look at me maybe sympathetically and say, ‘Oh, it must stink to be him with the diabetes and all. I think that you just have to embrace it and think of it as a part of you and that it will always be there. You can’t let people think of diabetes as the first thing they think of when they think of you.”

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