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All in the Family: Couple Struggles With Three Diabetic Children

One couple finds dealing with diabetes in three kids creates many challenges.

ByABC News
June 7, 2010, 10:40 AM

June 8, 2010 -- Sarah Coffey of Peoria, Ill., is a typical 14-year-old. She goes to school, plays in her school's band and enjoys hanging out with her friends.

But what sets her apart from most other girls her age is that she has Type 1 diabetes.

What sets her apart even more is that her two younger siblings also have the disease known alternately as juvenile diabetes.

Doctors diagnosed Sarah three years ago. She was the last of the three children to get the news.

"Sarah's diagnosis was the hardest to deal with, because it seemed so unlikely that it could happen," said Lori Coffey, Sarah's mother.

That all the Coffey children have diabetes while their parents don't is indeed an anomaly.

"Five percent of the families we see have more than one child with diabetes. It's very unusual to get three," said Dr. Bruce Buckingham, professor of pediatric endocrinology at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif.

He has no affiliation with the Coffey family.

Emily Coffey, the middle child, now 11, was the first to be diagnosed with diabetes. She was two and a half years old at the time.

"She was still in diapers, and I noticed that her diapers were really, really full," Lori Coffey said. "That indicated to me that she was urinating more and I knew that was a symptom for Type 1 diabetes."

The heavy urination continued so Coffey and husband Brian brought Emily to the doctor.

"They checked her urine for glucose and that test was positive, and then they checked her blood-sugar and the level was so high that the meter couldn't even read it," she said.