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This is Caleb’s Dad: David Schlissel

D-Dad talks about coaching, compassion & staying connected

Michele Polz of Sanofi USMichele Polz

With Father’s Day approaching, we wanted to recognize a couple of fathers whose lives are impacted by diabetes. Today we’re featuring David Schlissel, who is Lorraine Sisto’s husband and father of three: Colin, Caleb and Lila. His son Caleb is 10 years old and lives with type 1 diabetes.

Much of David’s free time is dedicated to coaching his children’s sports teams, whether baseball or basketball. “It’s not uncommon for us to be at a ball field on the weekend for eight hours on a particular day,” he said. “I love being able to impart some of the technical aspects of the sports to my kids, but I also find it gratifying just being there for them and providing the support of a good coaching influence. Hopefully my kids will look back at some point and say they enjoyed it too.”

David Schlissel coaching his son Caleb
David Schlissel coaching his son Caleb

Earlier this year Lorraine wrote a heartwarming blog post, “What I Need You to Know, Caleb,” honoring all that David contributes to their family, despite frequent long work hours. “I was really moved by it and, frankly, I cried,” he said. “It caught me completely off guard. It was pretty touching that Lorraine cared so much to write about something that we haven’t spoken about. It was also motivating to take an increasingly greater role in Caleb’s care when I can. At times, I haven’t felt like I have lived up to the standard of what she wrote because my role as caregiver is more often the backup, given some of the demands of my job. But I think I’ve been more vigilant in my approach, preparation and planning for Caleb’s care as a result of that post.”

Staying abreast of Caleb’s care and family activities while traveling for work is a challenge, but David and Lorraine make a point to stay connected. “Lorraine and I text several times a day and every once in a while I’ll follow her Twitter® page to stay up on what she’s doing,” he said. “It’s funny, but social media has helped us stay connected with what’s going on at home, between Facebook® and Twitter. Also, Lorraine puts a lot of effort and energy to help me get up to speed when I return. I can understand that there may be some fathers out there who feel distant from the process and engagement, which can be disheartening. There was a period of time when I felt completely out of the loop. I realized I just needed to step up my game and get more involved and hopefully that is having a positive impact on Caleb.”

David believes that one of the most important parts of being a father of a child who lives with diabetes is recognizing that a kid needs to be a kid. “There can certainly be an emotional impact of diabetes, not just the physical impact,” he said. “Lorraine is really the one who has taken the lead on teaching me about all that. The best thing we can do is provide Caleb with a strong support system and a good diabetes management framework so he can go out and do whatever he wants. It’s not always possible, but with a lot of effort and diligence, you may be able to minimize both the physical and mental impact that diabetes has on a kid.”

David Schlissel with his wife and children
David with his wife
and children

Parenting a child who lives with diabetes has deepened David’s sense of compassion. “Deep down, Caleb is very sensitive and caring, especially of others,” he said. “I think it has created an awareness for our entire family to the things that other people could be going through in their lives that you don’t necessarily see that could influence both their physical and mental well-being.”

As he watches his children grow and mature, David finds himself inspired by them. “I know many parents, including me want to be an inspiration to their kids, but I constantly find that they are a source of inspiration for me,” he said. “I see so many qualities in them that I think holds great promise for who they will be as they become adults. I want my kids to grow up to be good people and to be happy. I hope that’s what we are teaching them along the way, and providing them a good environment to do so.”

David’s favorite Father’s Day memories involve the times his family took to make him feel special. “I love those little cards that they have made throughout the years,” he said. “They may only spend half an hour putting a crayon to paper, but I can tell they put some thought to it. Maybe they drew a basketball or a little something to try to make a connection to me. Those are the things that I think about, when they took the time to say, ‘We love you, Dad.’”

David’s dedication to his family shows; all those countless hours on the sports fields are building memories not only for him but his children too. Our thanks to him for sharing his story. Happy Father’s Day, David!

Michele Polz
Head of Patient Insights, Sanofi US Diabetes

Disclosures: David Schlissel received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.

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  1. Scott
    June 11th, 2013, 9:54 AM

    Ah! One of my absolute favorite families! So nice to hear from David – we all appreciate him!

    1. Michele
      June 11th, 2013, 11:12 AM

      We really enjoyed and appreciated hearing David’s perspective, too, Scott! Thanks so much for reading!