Grantsburg Family Fighting Type 1 Diabetes

Thursday, February 8, 2018 | By Steve Briggs |


Three of the four kids in Josh and Niki Olson’s family are battling Type 1 Diabetes, a disease with no known cause or cure. That is especially unusual because the Grantsburg family has no family history of diabetes, and neither parent has it.

Thankfully, Austin, Kaitlin and Ashlin Olson are managing quite well, monitoring themselves many times daily and leading normal teenage lives. Austin, 18, a freshman at St. Thomas in St. Paul, played football, basketball and track for Grantsburg High School. Kaitlin, 17, is a GHS junior who plays volleyball and runs track. Ashlin is a 13-year-old seventh grader at Grantsburg Middle School and is a volleyball player. All three are musical and were/are in the school choirs.

Type 1 Diabetes is diagnosed in three stages. Stage 1 and 2 measure the severity of the disease as it progresses. By Stage 3, the disease has reached maturity and the person will live with Type 1 Diabetes the rest of their life.

Ashlin, now13, was the first to be diagnosed when she was in second grade. The children’s mother, Niki (Denn) Olson, said, “We noticed something was going on. She was losing weight, drinking a lot of water, urinating a lot. So the day after school let out we brought her in for testing at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul. They did tests and put her in the hospital right away. She is Type 1.” She wears a Dexcom which monitors her blood sugar every five minutes.

Austin was diagnosed about 18 months ago, at age 17, and is also Type 1.

Austin and Ashlin manage the disease by wearing insulin pumps that recognize when their body is calling for more sugar. They also keep a juice box or other sugary food available when their body requires more sugar. The insulin pump has readouts that help them monitor their condition. “You just have to pay attention to your numbers so they don’t go too low or too high,” Niki said.

After Austin’s diagnosis, Kaitlin decided she wanted to be tested for the disease, although she didn’t have any of the symptoms. She provided a blood sample last spring for Trial Net Testing, which looks for five auto-antibodies of Type 1 Diabetes. She tested positive for three of the five.

During Christmas break, she took a further test. The results came back last week showing she has all five of the auto-antibodies for Type 1 Diabetes. She also failed all the oral glucose tests, which means her blood sugar was high.

In a person with a properly functioning pancreas, it controls the amount of sugar in the blood. Kaitlin’s tests show very high levels of blood sugar which led to a Stage 2 diagnosis.


“The doctor in charge of the research told us it is very rare that three kids in the same family would have it, especially since neither Josh nor I have it. Type 1 is nowhere to be found in our families,” Niki said.

The family’s oldest child, Kirstin, doesn’t have the disease, but now that Kaitlin tested at Stage 2, Kirstin plans to have the tests done too.

JDRF Walk Feb. 24 at Mall of America

The family will be at Mall of American on Saturday, Feb. 24, participating in the annual Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) One Walk, as they do every year. Josh Olson’s employer, Hunt Electric of Bloomington, MN, is a corporate sponsor for the event.

“We participate in the walk every year,” said Niki. “We gather donations, do the walk with other  Hunt Electric families and hundreds of other people to raise awareness.” Afterward, they stay for the big presentation in the Mall of America Rotunda. It honors all the walkers and especially those who raised large donations for JDRF.

DONATIONS To make a donation toward Juvenile Type 1 Diabetes Research on behalf of the Olson Family team, click here:

Another corporate sponsor, KSTP Television, was looking for a story to publicize the upcoming fundraiser and learned from Hunt Electric that a Hunt employee’s family has two children with Type 1 Diabetes and a third child recently diagnosed with it. The Olson kids (l-r)  Kaitlin, Ashlin and Austin are pictured with a KSTP photographer. Their story aired on the station Wednesday evening.

“It’s an invisible disease. They look healthy and no one really knows that they have it. Management is the key. It’s a constant thing. 

“The kids are excited to be part of the walk. It’s a big deal to our family every year. In the small town of Grantsburg there aren’t many who have this disease, but when you go to the Mall of America and there are thousands of people there doing the walk, they see they aren’t alone.”


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