When Federal Way High School junior Tommy Osborn was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 11 years old, he really didn’t know what the future held for him. Osborn just knew he wanted to keep playing soccer.
“It was actually after one of my soccer games,” said Osborn, who had two goals as a midfielder for the Eagle boys soccer team this season. “I wasn’t playing very well and drinking a lot of water. I didn’t have any energy.”
Osborn’s mother, Nancy, is a nurse and had seen the symptoms of juvenile diabetes and made her son get tested for the condition.
“I was scared a little bit the day I got diagnosed,” Osborn said. “But they say that playing sports when you have diabetes is a good thing. Exercise helps your blood sugar go down.”
Living with diabetes isn’t that abnormal of an occurrence in today’s society. Some 21 million Americans have diabetes, meaning their bodies cannot properly turn blood sugar into energy. Either they don’t produce enough insulin or don’t use it correctly. With the type 1 form, the body’s immune system attacks insulin-producing pancreatic cells, so that patients require insulin injections to survive.
Osborn is also one of three members of the Federal Way High School soccer team to have type 1 diabetes. Eagle head coach Jason Baumgardt and sophomore Conor Hanson are also diabetics.
More than one million Americans have juvenile (type 1) diabetes; a disease which strikes children suddenly, makes them insulin dependent for life, and carries the constant threat of devastating complications. Someone is diagnosed with juvenile diabetes every hour.
In juvenile diabetes, a person’s pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone necessary to sustain life. Although the causes are not entirely known, scientists believe the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It is not caused by obesity or by eating excessive sugar, which are two common myths about juvenile diabetes. Each year approximately 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, over 13,000 of whom are children.
“You just have to watch what you eat,” Osborn said. “I have to prick my finger three to five times on a normal day to check my blood sugar. On a game day, I check it probably six to eight times. I have to make sure I have it under control before my game.”
Today, Osborn uses an insulin pump, a computerized cell phone-size device that carries enough insulin through a thin tube into his abdomen to provide him with a continuous supply of insulin for several days. Osborn also pricks his finger several times a day to test his blood sugar levels and can push a button on the pump to increase his insulin level if necessary.
Osborn, along with Hanson and fellow Federal Way teammate Kevin Olsen, will take their cause to the streets on May 18. The three will be among thousands of runners at the annual Nordstrom Beat the Bridge walk/run. The 26th annual event benefits the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and starts at Husky Stadium in Seattle at 8 a.m.
The Beat the Bridge event raised $1.26 million last year and has raised over $10 million for diabetes research over the last 25 years. To donate, visit www.beatthebridge.org.
“These kids work really hard to play and stay active in sports,” said Nancy Osborn. “And they have to really watch their blood sugars closely. Managing all of this is really important.”
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, email@example.com