There are certain moments a parent will never forget. For Carrie Ellspermann of Evansville, one of those moments came in April 2013. She and her husband Ken brought her 8-year-old son Caleb to the doctor because he had been losing weight and was unusually hungry, thirsty and tired. During the visit, Caleb’s physician came into the exam room joined by another doctor and a nurse practitioner. “I thought, ‘This is not good. This never happens,’” Carrie recalls.
The Ellspermanns learned that test results showed Caleb likely had type 1 diabetes. They needed to get him to Riley Hospital as quickly as possible. “I just couldn’t connect with what was happening,” says Carrie. “This is a kid who was playing in an all-star basketball tournament just four or five weeks earlier.”
Caleb was rushed from Evansville to Riley Hospital. “Caleb was close to being in ketoacidosis when he arrived,” says Riley endocrinologist Todd Nebesio, M.D. “If they would have waited another day, he would have been very sick and in the intensive care unit.” Carrie says they found it comforting to learn that Dr. Nebesio also has type 1 diabetes, which was diagnosed when he was 13 years old. “He told Caleb, ‘Yes, you have a challenge in front of you, but you can live with this,’” said Carrie.
Dr. Nebesio says he sees himself as a “cheerleader” for kids with type 1 diabetes. Caleb was receptive to his advice and encouragement. “Sometimes kids at his age will kind of feel sorry for themselves,” says Dr. Nebesio. “But Caleb handled it well. Caleb and his family realized that he could still play sports and be a normal kid, as long as he learned to manage his diabetes well.”
The Ellspermann family appreciated the way Riley educated the entire family about diabetes, including their younger son, Luke, and Caleb’s grandparents. “We have a very good interdisciplinary team,” explains Dr. Nebesio. “Along with physicians we have skilled and experienced nurse educators, dieticians who help with meal plans and a social worker who assesses for barriers in optimal diabetes care and provides resources to the family. When you consider all that expertise, plus the diabetes research conducted at Riley, it’s easy to see why families from all over the state choose Riley Hospital.”
Today, Caleb is doing great and playing all the sports he loves. He is transitioning his diabetes care to Riley endocrinologist Dr. Juan Sanchez, who sees patients in Newburgh thanks to Riley’s partnership with Deaconess Gateway Hospital. Caleb’s parents are longtime supporters of Riley Children’s Foundation, but now they’re more keenly aware of how philanthropic gifts help Riley families. “Knowing all that expertise is there at our fingertips right here in Indiana is a great comfort,” says Carrie.