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Advocacy Spotlight: Rob and Kayle O'Donnell

Rob O’Donnell is used to tough battles.  After Rob, a New York City Police Detective, was injured in the line of Rob and Kayle O'Donnellduty on September 11th, he and his family moved to Pennsylvania.  Six years later, he faced another tough battle: his six year old daughter Kayle was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. 

The diagnosis came as a shock to the O’Donnell family, but they vowed to work together to manage Kayle’s disease.  Only a few months after Kayle’s diagnosis, Rob received a call every parent dreads.  It was Kayle’s school, telling Rob his daughter had a diabetic emergency.  “We were all new to diabetes,” said Rob.  “So the call was eventually expected, but the school’s response was not.”

Kayle had informed her teacher that she was feeling "wobbly", and was sent to the school nurse to test her blood sugar. There was no school nurse present, so Kayle went to the school secretary, who sent her back to class. Fortunately, the secretary notified Rob’s wife Lisa, who immediately rushed to Kayle’s school. When Lisa arrived at the school office, Kayle was nowhere to be found.  Panic set in, as Lisa urged school personnel to help her find her daughter.  Finally, they found Kayle still conscious, but pale and lethargic. Her blood glucose was at 21.

This episode spurred Rob and his family to act.  “Angry would be an understatement.” said Rob.  “But rather than yell and point fingers, I chose to become informed.”

The O’Donnell family learned about the importance of planning ahead, and of having a Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP) and a 504 plan in place.  Rob also became involved with ADA's Safe at School Campaign, in an effort to make sure that school staffs are better informed about how they can help students with diabetes. He has addressed his district school board, school personnel, and local media, providing information and materials about diabetes management plans, 504 plans, and emergency diabetes care. 

Rob has also assisted in ADA’s efforts to pass legislation in Pennsylvania that would ensure better care for students with diabetes.  This legislation would provide diabetes care training to school personnel and allow for diabetes self-management for students who are capable of doing so.  He has contacted state legislators, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, and the Governor, to tell them Kayle’s story and make them aware of the need for this law.

“My anger refocused into action and advocacy.” said Rob.  “As long as Kayle has diabetes is as long as I will be there fighting for her.” 

For more information on ADA’s Safe at School Campaign, please visit

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