Diabetes is a disease that affects the whole family, especially when a child is diagnosed. Parents of children diagnosed with diabetes face overwhelming, and sometimes frightening, questions such as: How can I strike the balance between caring and hovering? Will she ever be able to eat sweets again? How will I ever be able to let him go out on his own?
This is the latest in our occasional series from parents of children with diabetes, illustrating the emotions, challenges and successes each family faced upon diagnosis.
Name: Alicia and Jack Gattenio, parents of Casey, age 14, diagnosed at age 12
From: Elberta, Ala.
We are parents of an almost 15-yr-old boy who was diagnosed just over two years ago with type 1 diabetes. There was no family history, and we didn’t catch the signs until it was almost too late and we were rushing him to the ER at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Pensacola, Fla.
Casey’s blood glucose was well over 400 mg/dl, but they took great care of him and educated all of us on our new way of life. I say “us” because even though he is the one to live with diabetes, we and his brother and sister take this on as a family. I believe my son, who has always been mature for his age, handled all of it better than we did as adults.
Casey is an AVID baseball player: As a seventh-grader, he made the baseball team at our local high school. Last school year, as an eighth-grader (he had to try out again), he made the JV team and ended up the leading base stealer, with 31 stolen bases. NO ONE on either the JV or varsity teams came close to that number, with their highest being 16 stolen bases. There is talk he may have broken a county record—but no one can tell us for sure!
The American Diabetes Association’s local office in Pensacola (which serves South Alabama and Northwest Florida) recently had an event with our local AA baseball team, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, and we were able to receive free tickets for our family. Casey was asked by the Association’s executive director to throw out the first pitch, and he was completely in his element. Thank you for that opportunity!
Casey’s blood glucose numbers run slightly higher during the baseball season, but he has always eaten well, so there were not a lot of major diet changes to make. Since his diagnosis, he has maintained his status on the honor roll and has been in student government—and his baseball skills have never been better. He does not wear a pump, and most of his teammates are aware of his diabetes. I should also mention that my son is an avid weight lifter, too! His dad is a strength coach and we own a private training gym here in South Alabama.
I believe people like my son are the future leaders of our country—whether in business, school, baseball, etc. There is nothing he can’t do and his physical abilities are a walking advertisement for people with type 1 diabetes, both youth and adult. I could ramble forever, but Casey is the new face of type 1. You have to see him to believe it!