Four years ago I won an award for a White Sox story I did for Chicago Public Radio. Ever since, I’ve been telling people that I am the only blind woman in America to win an award for sports broadcasting. I don’t know if that’s true, exactly, but so far no one has told me differently. It is in that spirit that I am sharing news of three momentous events from this week in sports that could change our lives.
1. I picked Michigan State in the NCAA pool at our local tavern, and for the first time ever, in my entire March madness life, I am still alive going into the final four. Not only that, but I have a chance, although remote, of winning the jackpot. My stiffest competition comes from beloved bartender Billy Balducci. He has North Carolina beating UConn in the final, I have Michigan State beating UNC in the final. In order to get to that final, though, Michigan State has to beat UConn tonight. Mike, Hanni and I will be watching the game from Hackney’s – Billy is bartending, which means he’ll be waiting on us hand and foot as we enjoy a Michigan State victory. Go Spartans!
2. Yesterday NFL quarterback Jay Cutler was traded to the Chicago Bears by the Denver Broncos. Normally I don’t follow football, but this trade is noteworthy to me because Cutler was diagnosed with Type I diabetes a year ago. I have Type I diabetes, too – that’s the disease that caused my blindness. Yahoo Sports had a sportswriter whose own son was diagnosed with Type I a few years ago write a piece about Cutler. The description of Type I in the article is one of the best I’ve ever read. The writer points out that two very different conditions are referred to as “diabetes” – Type I, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, and Type II.
Type II diabetes, often brought on by obesity or poor nutrition, involves a breakdown in the body’s ability to process the insulin it makes. For that reason, improved diet and exercise can often improve the condition and lead to the reduction or elimination of the need for insulin injections. Type I is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks itself and destroys its insulin-making cells. There is no behavior that “causes” it; doctors believe it is a genetic condition often triggered by an environmental stress, such as a virus. It is more typically diagnosed in childhood but in recent years it has become increasingly common for people Cutler’s age or older to become symptomatic. Those who suffer from Type I are completely insulin dependent, and there is nothing that can be done to change that fact.
The writer explains how Type I diabetics balance food, exercise and insulin to walk a tightrope between high and low blood sugars, and how we use blood glucose monitors to check our blood sugar levels regularly (mine has audio output that calls my results out loud).
Yet control not only requires hyper-vigilance, but it also correlates to a risk in the regular occurrence of hypoglycemic episodes, or “lows” – the scariest day-to-day element of diabetes management.
To control blood sugars, most people use one of those finger-stick kits like the one Cutler carries to check their blood-glucose reading on a frequent basis, certainly before meals and often as much as 15 times a day. When that number is higher than the intended target range, additional insulin can be given through shots or via a battery-powered pump that is threaded into the body (the plastic insertion devices typically must be removed, reloaded and relocated every two or three days). When the number is low, fast-acting carbohydrates – usually juice or glucose tablets – must be ingested. It is also important that a person accurately computes the amount of carbohydrates he/she consumes, ideally by reading labels and measuring or weighing portions. Insulin is then dispensed according to a preset ratio (which also needs to be tweaked based on frequent testing).
Sounds pretty complicated. That’s because managing Type I diabetes is complicated. but the writer goes on to say that Cutler isn’t the only pro athlete who has Type I, and that plenty of people with Type I diabetes manage to live happy, fulfilling and healthy lives.
For now Cutler – like Charlotte Bobcats forward Adam Morrison, Seattle Mariners pitcher Brandon Morrow, golfers Scott Verplank, Michelle McGann and Kelli Kuehne, swimmer Gary Hall Jr. and other pro athletes with Type I – can help the cause simply by conspicuously continuing to perform at a high level, despite the daily challenges he faces. And if seeing him suck down a juice on the sideline or prick his finger during a timeout helps some observers gain a better understanding of the rigors of Type I management, that’s not a bad thing.
3. Thanks to Hanni, Mike and I managed to get tickets to Monday’s White Sox home opener – the game is sold out, but since she needs room to lie down we qualified for seats in the handicapped section. Rumors are flying, pardon the pun, about Barack Obama throwing out the first pitch. Our president is a big White Sox fan, you know, and he does have experience — Obama threw out the first pitch during the 2005 playoffs, and the 2005 World Champion White Sox won 8 straight games afterwards. I can’t imagine President Obama returning from the G20 Summit overseas in time for Monday’s 1 pm start, and once he sees the weather forecast I doubt he’ll make the White Sox game a priority –it’s supposed to snow.
OMG, it’s 4:37 already. Time to head to Hackney’s. Go, go Spartans!