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Dear Diabetes, You Can't Stop Me!

By Christian Gonzalez, 11/15/17, 1:00PM EST

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Learn more about how Zachary Corte, Don Mills Flyers, Battles Type 1 Diabetes

 

Dear Diabetes,

You can’t stop me;

You can’t stop me from being a kid.

You can’t stop me from scuba diving.

You can’t stop me from mastering Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

And you won’t ever stop me from playing hockey.

 

Game Changing Moment.

It’s the third period of the 2013 Canadian All-Star hockey game, Zackary’s line is in down one goal. I’ll give you three chances to write your own narrative, I bet you won’t expect this outcome, especially if you’ve ever seen Zackary play hockey.

An All-Star game is supposed to be memorable for the past season’s hard work, blood, sweat and tears, but for one family it was memorable for a life changing moment that happened that night. “The first period was great, the second period even better, the third period, his face turned white,” Recalls Cathy Corte, mother of Zackary Corte. “We didn’t know what was wrong, we didn’t think Zachary was dehydrated, he drinks more water than any kid I know.” Well, as it turns out, mom was right, Zackary was plenty hydrated, his blood sugar level was the issue. At just seven years old, Zackary Corte was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic.

This might have cleared up some confusion for Cathy and Rob (Zackary’s Parents) and their suspicion of why their son, LOVED water so much, because a symptom of a type 1 diabetes is increased thirst. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, the main hormone used to allow sugar (glucose) to enter the blood cells to produce energy.

Imagine that, a young hockey athlete struggling to naturally produce the energy needed to last through the third period. That’s what happened to Zackary that evening, but despite being a type 1 diabetic, Zackary was an All-Star that season, and will remain an All-Star for life. 

 A New Routine.  

“I had to quit my job,” Recalls Cathy.

Yeah, I’ll give you a moment to soak that up, because it took me a few moments as well. Type 1 diabetes doesn’t just affect the diagnosed individual, it effects the entire family, especially when your son is only seven years old.

Imagine you have a son or daughter whose pancreas cannot produce insulin, so you have to monitor them basically 24/7, 365 days a year, every hour of the day. That’s a full-time job. So, for Cathy, her income is keeping her son alive, teaching him the discipline and importance of eating the right foods, even when he does not want to eat.

As I watched Cathy run a blood sugar test on Zackary during their third game of the Bauer Motown Classic in Troy, Michigan this past week, she explained to me that this might be Zackary’s first game he’ll ever have to miss.

The reason? Zackary’s stomach was upset that morning and he didn’t finish his breakfast after his insulin was given to him. As a result, his number was low, 3.5 to be exact, well short of his “number,” his sweet spot, lucky number 6.

“What would happen if he went out there anyway,” I asked. “When Zackary is low, it slows down his cognitive system, it takes him longer to process information and his reaction time is delayed, it’s not safe.” Hockey is played so fast, if you blink you might have missed 3 passes and goal. So, for Zackary, that means get your number to your sweet spot or find your sweet spot on the bench. It’s all about discipline.

What about Sleep? “I try to sleep, having the baby monitor in his room is extremely helpful, Zackary is a sound sleeper so he would sleep right through the pump alarm if he went low.”

Nightly Ritual.

It’s 10PM, a blood sugar test was completed and levels were normal, Goodnight.

“Dead in Bed.”

It’s 2AM, the alarm lingers through the baby monitor. Without hesitation, with the blanket almost still wrapped around the body, many parents are rushing to play doctor.

Luckily for Zackary, this hasn’t been the case.

“Dead in Bed” is a term associated with the phrase, “going low,” otherwise scientifically described as hypoglycemia, a condition that occurs when one's blood glucose is lower than normal. When not treated, the individual will go unconscious, thus the term “dead in bed,” you cannot provide an insulin shot if you are unconscious.

The state of not knowing is called Hypoglycemia unawareness, and is common among active athletes. This is typically because the more active you are before bed, the less likely you are to fully control your blood sugar levels due to adrenaline and other factors. For Zackary and many other active young athletes, practice and games are typically played after school during the week, often times ending around 8 or 9pm, giving them enough time to relax and get ready for bed, but not enough time to fully sleepless and stressful nights of worrying.

Dear Type 1 Diabetic Athlete,

"Never give up because anything is possible. Type 1 diabetes might make you feel different and will be challenging to manage, but with patience, hard work and a great support team, it won't stop you from doing anything. Look at Chris Jarvis (Olympic rower), Max Domi (NHL Player), Cory Conacher (NHL Player), Dessi Zaharieva (MMA Fighter), Bobby Clarke (NHL Hall of Famer).  All these athletes have type 1 diabetes, but have learned to manage their blood sugars and become the best at their sport.  Amazing role models!" 

-Zackary Corte, #16, Don Mills Flyers

 

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Note from Author:

Meeting Zackary and his parents has been life changing for me. I met them last week at the Bauer Motown Classic presented by Legacy Global Sports, in Troy, Michigan. Hearing Zackary’s story and the struggles he goes through every day as a 12-year-old is motivating. Sure, everyone has their own struggles and challenge in life, but this challenge is bigger than any I’ll every face. My biggest worry when I fall asleep is if I’m going to sleep through my alarm, not if my child will go into a Hypoglycemic attack. When I first wake up, it’s a matter of what kind of cereal I want to eat, not what my blood sugar level is, or how will I balance my levels out. Every time I lay down in a bad mood, or wake up in a bad mood, I will think about your struggles Zackary; You’re an inspiration, a fighter, but most importantly, an All-Star.

Good Luck in your hockey career and all your future endeavors.

Special thanks for Cathy and Rob Corte for sitting down with me and taking time away from watching their son to educate me and inspire me about their son. You both are All-Stars as well, Zackary is a lucky kid!

Please go and learn more about what Zackary and his family go through every hour of the day by learning more about Type 1 Diabetes at http://www.diabetes.org/.