Roy athletes not dragged down by Type 1 diabetes

Friday , May 05, 2017 - 5:00 AM

RYAN COMER, Standard-Examiner Staff

ROY — Gunner Erickson, Justin Boley, Kru Flint and Boyce Call all play different sports at Roy High School.

Erickson plays soccer, Boley plays basketball, Flint plays baseball and Call plays football (though he plays baseball as well).

They all have one striking similarity, however, that one may not notice while watching them play.

They all have Type 1 diabetes.

Flint and Erickson are both 17 years old, but the two were diagnosed at drastically different stages in their lives. Flint was diagnosed when he was 2 while Erickson was diagnosed two years ago.

Boley, 18, was diagnosed when he was eight, and Call, 16, was diagnosed when he was four.

They all share similar struggles.

“I want to say it was against Fremont and my blood sugar was just way too high,” Call said of a sophomore football game he played in last season. “I had to come out for a few plays, get it under control — more control than it was — and I just went back in the next quarter.”

In people with Type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. It’s classified as an autoimmune disorder, similar to Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus and Crohn’s Disease, though those diseases affect other parts of the body.

Insulin is a hormone necessary for sugar to enter cells, and without insulin, cells are denied a key source of energy. The combination of sugar not being able to enter cells and therefore accumulating in the bloodstream can lead to dehydration, weight loss and potentially life-threatening conditions.

While the exact cause of Type 1 diabetes is unknown, risk factors include family history, genetics, geography and age.

Erickson, whose grandfather has Type 1 diabetes, was diagnosed after he noticed he was really tired all the time, he had dry mouth and he was going to the bathroom a lot.

“I went to a doctor first and then they just checked my blood sugar, and it was so high the meter couldn’t even read it,” Erickson said.

There’s no cure, but Type 1 diabetes is managed through frequent checks of blood-sugar levels and insulin injections.

According to Erickson, those checks are required at least four times a day: in the morning, at lunch, at dinner and before he goes to bed.

Because he plays soccer, he burns off more sugar than someone who isn’t as active, so he needs to perform even more checks. He said he checks before a game, at halftime, after the game and then two hours after the game to make sure his blood-sugar levels don’t drop too low.

Erickson said he can perform up to 10 or 11 checks a day. Those involve putting a test strip in a meter, pricking his finger with a small needle and then bleeding on the test strip.

He said the ideal blood-sugar range is 100-120 mg/dL, but according to Boley, there are days where that can be a real challenge.

“Your blood’s out of control, you can’t get it in check … It just can’t come down past 200 and you just have to keep on giving yourself shots and trying to monitor it the best you can,” Boley said.

Erickson said he gives himself five to eight injections a day, and the number depends on how much he eats and how high his blood-sugar levels are.

Though playing sports means more checks, none of the athletes advised against playing simply because of the disease.

“I wouldn’t let the diabetes win,” Flint said. “I don’t think it should change your life whatsoever … You just have to monitor it. You can’t be lazy.”

Boley said having diabetes doesn’t make him a worse athlete than someone else.

“We’re the same as every other athlete that’s out there, we just have something else we have to deal with,” Boley said. “It doesn’t affect how we play unless we let it affect how we play.”

Call said if someone approached him and shared a concern about playing sports with diabetes, he’d tell them, “so what.”

“You’ve got something that other people don’t have that’s unique? You just got to stay on top of it and go out there and be the best you can be. If not, then hit the road,” Call said.

Erickson said it gives him a mental edge.

“If I can perform just as well as the next person and have this disease that’s trying to attack my body … it gives me a mental edge that I can be a little bit stronger than the next guy,” Erickson said.

Below are other athletes from around Northern Utah who shared with the Standard-Examiner that they, too, battle Type 1 diabetes:

• Zack Cowdin (Fremont tennis)

• Madyson Durrant (Viewmont softball)

• Corinne Francis (Woods Cross softball)

• Kelsey Harvey (Roy alum who plays basketball at Colorado Northwestern Community College)

• Ashley Hess (Bear River softball)

• Cameron Moser (Mountain Crest football, basketball and baseball)

• Jordyn O’Neal (Box Elder softball)

Contact Standard-Examiner sports reporter Ryan Comer at rcomer@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @RyanComerSe and on Facebook.

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