After living with Type I diabetes for most of their childhood, Reece and Olivia Ohmer were already well-versed in educating their family about how they were feeling and caring for themselves. But both girls eventually became bogged down by responding to frequent and complex check-ins and reminders from parents and caregivers, and knew other kids with diabetes likely felt the same. Looking for a better way to communicate with their parents and physicians, the sisters created a diabetes emoticon app, which they are presenting to pediatric specialists, researchers and other health professionals during the Young Innovator Workshop of the Pediatrics 2040 conference hosted by CHOC Children’s.
Reece and Olivia created a variety of illustrations to easily answer the most common questions and text messages patients may receive from their parents. For example, if a parent texts “Did you test your blood sugar? Did you have a snack?” the child could quickly and easily reply with emoticons showing a blood glucose meter and a snack.
A student group at the University of Michigan called the “Michigan Hackers” is developing and testing the app, which they hope to make available on iTunes in the first quarter of 2016.
The Ohmer’s Journey
The Ohmer family has had an interesting journey with diabetes. Olivia, the youngest member of the family of four, was diagnosed with the disease when she was three years old. At the time, her older sister Reece would hold her hand during every insulin injection. Three years later, Reece was diagnosed with the same disease.
“When we had our first diagnosis, I didn’t know where our lives were going to go,” says mom Amy. “Instead of taking the situation and looking at it as a burdensome way to live, Olivia and Reece have taken their diagnoses and have done something remarkable.”
The pair has big plans for the future. In addition to rolling out their diabetes emoticon app, each hopes to pursue a career in the medical field. Reece hopes to go into pediatric medicine to help other kids, while Olivia is interested in becoming a researcher.
“We haven’t found the cure for diabetes yet, so if nobody else can find it, then I want to do it,” she said.
The sisters hope to empower other patients to help one another, Reece added.
“Just because we’re kids doesn’t mean we don’t have good ideas.”