Nothing - not even diabetes - can stop Jackson Soccer players Paige Young and Amanda Bleichrodt.
Jackson soccer players senior Paige Young and sophomore Amanda Bleichrodt both experience the usual life of a student-athlete. They get up, go to school and head to soccer practice after a long, hectic day of classes.
But what most people don’t know is that between switching classes and going to soccer practice, the two young ladies live with Type I Diabetes.
Having to endure more than 61,000 finger pricks in their early lives, and administer more than 34,000 insulin injections, the girls have become accustomed to the way of living.
“It is a way of life,” Young said. “You don’t have many memories beforehand and you become use to the changes.”
Life before Type 1 Diabetes is not memory Bleichrodt can recall.
At the age of 7 months, Bleichrodt was diagnosed with Juvenile Type I Diabetes.
“I was only 7-months-old when they found out,” Bleichrodt said. “I don’t know anything other than this way of life. I have dealt with it for over 14 years now and it has become my way of living.”
But it wasn’t always the way of living for her teammate.
Remembering back to when she was a child, Young can recall her first memory of her diagnosis.
As a 7-year-old, Young had been admitted to the hospital. After a long period of tests, she were released from the hospital with a diagnosis of Juvenile Type I Diabetes.
“I remember getting out of the hospital Thanksgiving morning when I had first discovered,” Young said. “I wasn’t really sure what it was at the time.”
It was Thanksgiving Day and her family was heading to her aunt and uncle’s house for a Thanksgiving feast. Not knowing her restrictions, Young sat down with her family and began to fill her plate with potatoes, turkey and rolls. She remembers her mother gently stopping her.
“No honey,” her mother said, “you can’t eat that.”
Startled and confused, Young slowly began to realize that her life wouldn’t be the same.
“I was only seven,” Young said. “I wanted to eat everything they were eating and I remember being so confused on why I couldn’t. It was all new to me and my parents and at first we really didn’t know what was right to eat and what was not.”
Both families had to learn and adjust to the new life that Young and Bleichrodt would have to live.
Years later, the girls and their families have found that adjustment and live every day with the challenges Type I Diabetes brings.
“It will be 10 years this Thanksgiving since I have been diagnosed,” Young said. “You get use to the finger pricks and it becomes a way of life. There are those days where you do have your lows and your blood sugar levels won’t come up and it does run your body down. But you learn to do the right things and take rests when needed.”
SOCCER VS. DIABETES
Although the girls have dealt with disease, playing sports and being active has never been out of the question.
Living lives like any other teenager, Young and Bleichrodt have never let their diagnosis get in the way of sports.
“I have been playing soccer since I was five, so I am very fortunate to be active and have Type 1 Diabetes,” Bleichrodt said. “My parents have always been supportive of me doing sports. They want me to do the best that I can, but they do say put your health first and soccer second.”
Young’s parents also had similar views on keeping their daughter active.
“My parents always made sure to keep me active,” Young said. “I have played sports growing up but my health does come before sports and if you don’t have a coach that supports that, then it is not worth it. Luckily, I do not have to deal with that here.”
Head girls soccer coach Frank Gagliardi has been supportive from day one, according to Young and Bleichrodt. With his support, the girls have been treated as any other athlete on the field.
“They are great girls and great soccer players,” Gagliardi said. “They do their best and, most of the time, we don’t even notice they have (diabetes). They manage themselves very well and I think their parents have really developed their life style of pushing through and doing everything they can to adjust.”
Through the long hours of vigorous training, the girls have managed to adapt to the strenuous workload.
But whenever passes get weak and touches get rough, the girls are off to the side lines checking their blood sugar levels.
“There are times where their sugar is low,”Gagliardi said. “But we have been pretty fortunate between their discipline and training that they stay on top of it and are very good at letting us know when they need a break.”
Young and Bleichrodt also shared how important taking breaks are when needed.
“I have never wanted to use it as an excuse or tell myself I can’t,” Young said. “But there are days where my body physically says ‘you can’t do it anymore. You have to sit down and take juice and get your blood sugar to come back up and focus more on your health rather than do that last sprint.’”
Bleichrodt shared how her teammates are very supportive of making sure she takes the right amount of breaks.
“My teammates know when I am not playing right and they ask me to check my sugar,” Bleichrodt said. “If my sugar is low and I say I need to sit out for five minutes they will cover for me and they are always pretty good at doing that.”
Through years of finger pricking and insulin shots, the girls have shown what it is like to kick diabetes to the curb and live a healthy, normal life.
From their remarkable balance of health and sports, the girls – along with their team and families – sparked an idea of organizing a soccer game in order to raise awareness for Type I Diabetes.
“You always hear walks for cancer and I always wanted something for Diabetes,” Young said. “A lot of people aren’t aware of diabetes so I wanted something that would create awareness.
There are a lot of people in the school that are dealing with it every day. The way you sleep, eat, perform in school and in sports is all affected by diabetes.”
Last week, Jackson teamed up with Perry for a special soccer game that brought awareness to diabetes and raised funds for The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, The American Diabetes Association and the Akron Children’s Hospital Diabetes Camp.
“It is something that seems to be more and more prevalent within our youth,” Gagliardi said. “Last year Perry helped us and they (were) willing to be a part of it again.”
Young and Bleichrodt looked forward to spreading their support for Type I Diabetes through the soccer game.
“No one fully understands diabetes and we wanted something to make people aware of what the disease actually is,” Bleichrodt said. “This is a way of life and we want to spread the awareness of it.”