Two months after his seventh birthday our worst fears were confirmed. Our son Jared was, like Travis Pascoe, diagnosed with Type I diabetes.
Today Jared is a sophomore at University High School and one of just a handful of area high school athletes who have been identified with the disease. That’s why I was intrigued by Pascoe’s story.
“You know,” Jared told my wife, Tambra, not long ago, “I’ve lived longer with diabetes than I have without it.”
A sobering thought, considering he has pricked his finger to test blood sugars some 15,000 times and given himself as many insulin shots over a nine-year period.
Like the Pascoes, we resolved to impose no limits on our son.
He has tested and given himself shots practically from the beginning. He has played as many as four sports a year without incident and is doing three at U-Hi.
Tambra has said the fact that a first-grade classmate underwent treatment for leukemia at about the same time, and who currently plays basketball with Jared, has helped keep things in perspective.
Still, parents are rightly troubled after hearing horror stories about kidney failure, blindness and loss of circulation if the disease is left unchecked.
And it is frightening when a youngster suffers a major insulin reaction after blood sugars get too low following treatment.
Jared had two of those before he was nine. The first occurred one morning before school. He took some juice, went into shock and unconsciousness. Despite an injection of concentrated glucose, it took the better part of the day for his body to return to normal.
The second happened suddenly at a local restaurant while awaiting breakfast. He jerked suddenly, banged his head on the booth and went out. As I sped home in the car, Jared convulsing and his eyes rolled back and twitching, I thought he was dead.
It took paramedics and a trip to the hospital emergency room for him to recover.
Diabetes runs in my family. A brother, my mother and a cousin all contracted the disease, though none as young as our son.
Things have changed in the 35 years since my brother became diabetic. Primitive testing to see merely if there was sugar in the urine has given way to sophisticated digital monitors, activated by a drop of blood on a test strip, to determine precise levels of blood glucose.
Jared uses a pen-like needle device that holds a cylinder of insulin with which to dispense precise amounts. He gives himself four shots a day designed to minimize reactions.
Still, as a diabetic athlete, Jared must constantly guard against high or low blood sugars that affect performance.
That is something people whose blood sugars normally adjust to food intake or physical exertion can’t understand.