13-year-old designs app to help children battling chronic condition

Think back to when you were 13-years-old. Maybe you remember hitting your first home run or winning that big spelling bee. But chances are you don’t recall developing an app that could potentially help thousands of children battling a chronic condition.

Few 13-year-olds have, but Drew Mendelow did.

“My app is, it’s very simple and anyone can really use it,” Mendelow told FOX 5 DC Friday afternoon. His story – and the story of the T1D1 app – starts back in September, when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and hospitalized at Children’s National in Northwest D.C.

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“There was a lot of things to take in for me, like learning just everything about type 1 diabetes and like how we have to deal with it every day,” Mendelow said. “All of the doctors were giving me a lot of information and I was feeling very overwhelmed.”

He learned he’d need an app to keep track of things like insulin doses and blood sugar, but the thing is – there was no one app that had all of the features the team at Children’s wanted.

“Some of them have a fee, some of them have adds, some of them don’t allow you to use different doses at different times of day,” explained Dr. Brynn Marks, a pediatric endocrinologist.

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So the 13 year old took matters into his own hands. “I taught myself to code games over the summer, and I said an app’s not too far off. So from the day I got home from the hospital, I started working on my own app,” Mendelow said. From there, he asked the team at Children’s to beta test it and give feedback.

“We tried to stress the system. We gave it all sorts of different possible scenarios. So high blood sugars, low blood sugars, different amounts of carbohydrate intake at every meal,” Marks recalled. “Our focus was on safety. We really wanted to make sure this was helpful to people and that it wasn’t going to do any harm.”

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But flash forward to now, and not only can you get the T1D1 app on both iPhone and Androids, Marks actually recommends it to new patients.

Mendelow’s heard from some of them about just how happy they are.

“It makes me feel really good because it’s really helping them a lot and I know it’s making their lives easier and that makes me feel really good about it,” he said.

The T1D1 app is totally free and was built using donations. Mendelow said any proceeds will go directly to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.