By the time he is 18 years old, Malta native, John McConkey, will have pricked his finger a minimum of 13,140 times.
McConkey, age 10, is one of more than 15,000 children who are diagnosed with Type I diabetes in the United States each year.
Type I diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. While the causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved.
McConkey's diagnosis came in August 2009 after a family trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, where the family currently resides.
"He was really thirsty and peeing a lot," John's mom, Cathy McConkey, recalls.
"I figured it was because it was hot - 115 degrees - but when I smelled his breath, it was a tell-tale sign."
A fruity odor on the breath, caused by acetone excreted through the lungs, is one symptom of Type I diabetes. John had also lost eight pounds in two weeks time.
Cathy McConkey and husband Jim are both nurses and had some inkling of what was wrong. A trip to the emergency room confirmed their fears.
"At the emergency room, we confirmed his blood sugar was 625," Cathy McConkey writes in a journal she set up for John on CaringBridge.org. "His Ph was 7.1 and bicarb was 7 (for you medical people)."
In other words, John was very sick.
"The ER doctor said if we hadn't come in we could have had a big problem."
McConkey describes her son as being brave and strong, yet when he learned the finger pokes to check blood sugar and methods to regulate his insulin levels would be his routine for the rest of his life, "he had a breakdown," according to his mom.
A little over a year later, though, John is proactive in his own healthcare, regularly checking his own levels, and is more than happy to talk about his illness.
"He isn't embarrassed and he's never had anyone make fun of him. But a lot of kids are curious," Cathy McConkey said.
The diagnosis has taken some getting used to for the rest of the family, too, which includes John's three siblings as well as his parents.
"It's hard to take him to the park to play and watch the other parents, knowing they don't have a care in the world," Cathy McConkey said.
The prognosis is good for John and he has no limitations as far as what he can eat, provided he is diligent in checking his levels. This means waking him up every two hours at night.
If his blood sugar gets too high during physical activity, he has to take a break.
"He gets frustrated sometimes and says 'I hate stupid diabetes,'" his mom said.
"But I think it's important that people know that kids with Type I diabetes can do everything that other kids do, they just have to be aware."
Having a support system has been vital for the family to be able to deal with John's diabetes and his parents have become advocates to get the word out about the disease.
Working with the American Diabetes Association has also had its perks. Recently, John and his family were able to meet with rock star and reality TV personality, Bret Michaels, who was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at age 6 and has lived with it for 41 years.
"He was filming his new VH1 reality show about his life and wanted a photo shoot with some local juvenile diabetics," Cathy McConkey said.
If that weren't amazing enough, Michaels also convinced John to attend a five-day diabetes camp - on his dime.
"He asked if John had ever been and he said 'no' - he was kind of scared of the thought of leaving us for that long.
"But Bret said 'you have to go and I'll pay for it,'" Cathy McConkey said.
The experience was an inspiring one for the McConkeys.
"Everyone assumes that, because Bret is a rock star, he drinks and parties all the time," said Cathy McConkey, "but that's not the case. He really takes care of himself."
Michaels, 47, who won last season's "Celebrity Apprentice" and earned thousands of dollars for juvenile diabetes research, has had a few health scares unrelated to his diabetes.
"It was just inspiring that someone as big and popular as Bret Michaels would take the time to sit down and talk with us. And John's a drummer so it was really awesome," Cathy McConkey said.
Michaels reality show, "Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It," premiered Oct. 18 on VH1 and airs Mondays at 10 p.m.