If a picture paints a thousand words, this one does that and more. The photo was taken by Kim Griffith, team mom, during a recent basketball game in the suburbs of Kansas. The boy in the photo clearly has his head in the game as he reaches, determinedly to make a shot.
Look closely at the picture of this impressive young man—specifically between his right elbow and his shoulder. Notice the device? It's a continuous glucose monitor, or CGM (in this case, a Dexcom CGM). It's used to read blood sugars and transmit glucose levels electronically every five minutes.
The young man’s name is Karson and he loves sports. In fact, Karson plays sports 12 months a year, every year. This is the part where everyone should take notice.
So many times when a child is newly diagnosed, parents frantically start searching for the name of a celebrity with diabetes; someone who can inspire their newly-diagnosed child. A celebrity who can demonstrate to the child that diabetes doesn't have to limit achievement.
I think it’s great that celebs inspire so many but to me, I’m even more impressed by regular kids who refuse to let diabetes get in their way. Their busy lives and can-do attitutudes can be just as powerful examples to their peers. Maybe even more powerful.
It seems to me that they are the real heroes and Karson is such a hero to me.
Eleven-year-old Karson is a 5th grader. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age of 2. Baseball, basketball, and football make up his year-round schedule with travel teams, practices, and non-stop movement. During football games, his CGM is wrapped with ‘coban’ an elastic, self-adhesive bandage that protects it during each hit. Having to manage diabetes shouldn't interfere with more important things that need to happen…like completing a play in a football game!
But Karson’s hectic schedule and non-stop activity don't tell the whole story. It’s the type of person he is beyond the game. Like when the coach of another basketball game walks across to where Karson is playing and speaks to him about what he wears on his arm.
As his team was celebrating a win, Karson stopped and took the time to speak to a coach from another team in the competition. The coach, it turned out has an 8-year-old daughter, who has type 1 diabetes. And, in that moment, sharing knowledge about using his CGM was more important than partying with his teammates.
Or when Karson’s mom Meaghan, a nurse, is contacted about a newly-diagnosed child and her son is called upon to reassure the child and discuss—kid to kid—what it's like living with diabetes. “He's never once turned me down when I've asked for his help," Meaghan said. "He lives his life and he knows what’s important. Karson always spends time with newly-diagnosed children. They check their blood sugars together, and talk about all things diabetes. He is never afraid to share what he knows or to talk about it with anyone who will listen.”
Of course, Karson is not alone in what he does. So many other young people with diabetes ‘play the hero’; not allowing diabetes to stop them from anything. When other kids their age see what they can do and how they do it, it only makes sense that they walk away with a renewed sense that they too can manage and live with a disease that no one could ever want.
“We didn’t want to hold him back, if he wanted to try something, we figured out a way to make it work. If he was going to put it all out there on the line, we needed to support that effort.”
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