(Written by Will Schindler)
During the last week of February in 2005 I got the flu and missed three days of school. I was in third grade at the time. I had a high fever and felt awful. I even missed hockey practice. I have been playing hockey since I was four years old and love the sport (and football, and baseball and snowboarding). I felt better Thursday, so I went back to school.
The next Saturday I went to hockey practice in the morning and then my dad and I went to a Minnesota Gopher hockey game in the evening. We had the usual game snacks, but nothing out of the ordinary. On the way home, my dad had to stop three times so that I could use a restroom. My mom even called us to see if everything was ok because it was taking us so long to get home. My dad told her what was going on and they both thought it was weird. On Sunday I had to use the bathroom much more often than usual. My parents knew something was wrong. First thing Monday morning I was at the doctor’s office.
I actually ended up missing three more days of school. When we went into the doctor’s office my mom explained what was going on. He seemed to know right away what to do and had me take a blood test. I had never had blood drawn before so I was not expecting them to take a big tube of blood out of my body. That’s pretty scary for a nine year old.
Right away we got an answer. The doctor told us that my blood sugar was over 600. The way he said it, I knew right then and there, that there was something seriously wrong with me.
The doctor explained that my pancreas was not working correctly. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. He said that I had Type 1 Diabetes. He also said that Type 1 Diabetes was not curable and that I would have to take shots of insulin for the rest of my life. That’s when I got really scared. The only kids I know that had incurable diseases either were handicapped or died. I thought I would have to give up all of the sports I love – hockey, football, baseball and snowboarding.
My doctor set up an appointment with an endocrinologist and then sent us off to Waconia Ridgeview Hospital to get my blood sugar normal. The diabetes nurse there told us all about diabetes and showed us how to check my blood sugar and give myself shots. She even made my mom and dad give themselves shots so they would know what it felt like for me.
The next day we were at the endocrinologist’s office. We had meetings with that doctor, and with another diabetes nurse and even a nutritionist. They all said the same thing. Lots of kids have diabetes and still play all kinds of the sports. They said I could too as long as I managed my diabetes with the help of my mom and dad. I didn’t really believe them. This diabetes thing seemed pretty serious. I never knew anyone before who had to take shots almost every time they ate something. So when we got home, I went on the Internet to search for sports people with Type I Diabetes. I was really surprised. I found lots of names I knew. And the stories I read about them inspired me to be the athlete I can be and not let my diabetes get in the way.
Nick Boynton is a hockey player with the Anaheim Ducks. I was at the 2004 NHL All-Star Game in Minnesota when he played for the Eastern Conference Team. In 2000, Nick was at training camp for the Boston Bruins when he found out he had diabetes. He was 19 years old. He learned to control his diabetes from the start, so it never impacted his career.
Bobby Clarke found out that he had diabetes when he was eight. Many teams did not want to draft him because of his diabetes. The Philadelphia Flyers took a chance, gave Clarke a shot and drafted him in the 1967. He assured them that his hard work and his dedication paid off. To keep his blood sugars up during games, he would drink two cans of Coke and take three spoons of sugar, add two bottles of orange juice during intermissions and pack chocolate bars and hide glucose tabs in his uniform to prevent his sugar from going down from all the physical activity during the sixty minute games.
My mom and dad help me a lot. Because I am so active, there are lots of nights they take turns getting up to check my blood and to keep my blood sugars up. Sometimes they need to because my blood sugar just won’t go up and sometimes just do it for peace of mind. They’ve gotten so good at it, I hardly ever wake up. And they have never said no, if I want to try a sport. They always figure out a way to make it work.
I love to play football too and found out that lots of football players have Type 1 Diabetes. Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears has only had diabetes for about a year. Kenny Duckett, who played for the New Orleans Saints, was diagnosed with diabetes in the 10th grade and was told by his doctors to quit the high school football team. He didn’t. Jay Leeuwenburg former Indianapolis Colts Lineman was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 12. He never missed a down of football because of any diabetes-related complication. I’m trying out for the high school freshman team next year. The coach knows I have diabetes. But he also knows that I have it under control and will give him 101%.
No matter if its hockey, football or any other sport, before any practice or game, I make sure that my blood sugars are right where they are supposed to be. My adrenaline kicks when I am playing physical sports so I only need about 15 carbs an hour to keep me going. It’s afterward my blood sugar really crashes. I always have 65 carbs – all with no insulin to keep from going too low. Yeah, that part is great – eating without taking insulin is a thing that only a diabetic can appreciate.
Right from the start I took control of my diabetes. I check my blood sugars myself, can figure out how much insulin I need and give myself shots. It’s part of my life and I’m not going to let it keep me from doing the things I love most – hockey, football, baseball and snowboarding.
Here’s a link to a good article and are some pictures from this season. I’m number 16.