Like most 12-year-olds, sports were a big part of Dan’s life. He played basketball, football and baseball year round. It was a growing part of his identity. But one Sunday in December it ended after he was diagnosed with diabetes.
It was during a time and in a small town where little was known about diabetes. The most prudent thing to do was to pull Dan from all sports. He watched his friends go off to their practices while he rode home alone on his bike. “All of a sudden I didn’t know who I was. I was trying to adapt to having this diagnosis and not doing the normal things I enjoy doing.”
Then one day, he met the college age son of his mother’s friend. He had diabetes too. And he gave Dan some much needed insight, “He told me ‘It’s no big deal, just a condition you live with. You’ll do okay, you’ll survive this.’ That was the best news I could hear. To see somebody that had it for a number of years and still had all their body parts, looked okay, healthy, attending college and he became a successful physician.”
Similarly, Dan became a successful physician too. And today he tries to impart the same uplifting message to his young patients. “It takes a commitment on the part of all of our patients as well as their families, but there’s nothing they can’t do. Now we have pumps and continuous glucose censors. I have kids that are in every single sport. They do everything but mud wrestle.”
“It takes a real adjustment. Somehow, kids can go down two tracks. They can be bitter and resentful about the whole thing or they can fight doing anything and everything they can do to manage the diabetes.”
Much like other physicians and scientists, Dan’s heroes are Banting and Best. But he also admires those people “out there in the trenches” with people who have diabetes. Those who are raising money to find a cure, are taking care of others, and those who are helping guide the next generation to a better life.