This is a guest post by Meredith, who I’ve known since high school.
Just over a year ago, my son was rushed to the emergency room. At that time, we were in Tampa, Florida for a swim meet. Luke is a very active 13 year-old boy, who is on an elite swim team, and races on an elite triathlon team called Endorphin Fitness. Swimming, biking and running are part of his life six days a week. When he showed signs of being ill, my husband and I figured he was over-training and worn out. He showed flu-like symptoms so we thought he was fighting the flu. Because many people in our area were ill with the flu, it seemed logical.
On February 8, 2015, Luke woke up in the hotel room where we were staying for the swim meet, and lost all of his breakfast. The odd thing was it didn’t appear to be your typical “lost my cookies” situation. After much consideration and a phone call to his pediatrician’s on-call nurse, we rushed Luke to the hospital in Orlando, Florida. This was a long trek from Tampa but if we were going to any hospital we wanted to be in our own town. The trip seemed to take twice as long to get there and Luke was fading fast in the back seat. He was telling us he was “tired” and just wanted to sleep. My gut feeling was not to allow that, and to keep him awake.
Upon our arrival, the nurse immediately took Luke back for vitals where they said his initial assessments were raising some concerns so they would be admitting him immediately. My first thought was, dear Lord, what in the world could this be?
Nothing could prepare me for what was to come next.
A scary diagnosis
The diagnosis that fateful afternoon was type 1 diabetes. Luke’s sugar levels were over 1400 and he was in active DKA, diabetic keto-acidosis. The machine that tests blood sugar levels only goes up to 1400 and his was registering 1400 PLUS! For those of you who don’t know how elevated that is, a normal person’s blood sugar levels should be in the mid 80’s to 100. A dangerous level is considered 400 and higher. By all rights, he should not have been able to be standing and walking into the emergency room, much less have been competing less than 24 hours earlier in a competitive swim meet.
I will never forget the doctor’s words that night in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. After the doctor asked him what he did for fun, Luke explained he was on an elite competitive swim team, and an elite triathlon team. The doctor paused for a moment and said “Son, exercise is what saved your life.”
Luke remained in the Pediatric ICU for three days before the doctors got his glucose levels under control. That whole 72-hour period in our lives seems like such a blur. We are very healthy people, and lead very healthy balanced lives. How could this be?
In the months to come, I would go from an average mom, to a mom that could clearly pass any medical examination for my PhD. Ha! We often joke about this, but as a parent, part of our job is to be our child’s advocate.
Be the Change: Helping create happy endings
Many stories like this have a happy ending, but many do not. It’s heart wrenching to think this could have had a different ending; instead, it was just the beginning.
Luke went on just a couple months after the diagnosis to qualify for the Florida Age Group Championship Swim Meet (previously known as Junior Olympic). He also competed at the Florida State Regional Championship Race for Triathlons and took 3rd Place in state. In August, he competed at the USAT Youth National Championship Race in Ohio (Triathlon) to take 8th Place in the Nation.
Once all the dust settled and we knew that Luke was going to be okay, we decided to take this platform we had been given and do good with it. Our motto is “Be The Change.”
We are working diligently with local bodies of government and state officials, along with the American Diabetes Association, to advocate for awareness regarding type 1 diabetes. Most importantly, we want to educate parents, teachers, school nurses, and everyone in our community of the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes.
We are working with a team of attorneys and lobbyists in Florida to change legislation. Our goal for 2017 is to make it mandatory in the state of Florida, that any child that enters into a doctor’s office, urgent care center or the ER with flu-like symptoms or is sick, will be tested for type 1 diabetes. It’s as simple as a finger prick blood test that costs only $1 and or a urine test that costs 20 cents. It is that simple and can save many lives. The number of children that go misdiagnosed in the U.S. each year is staggering. Once our bill passes, we plan to lobby for other states to do the same.
Luke’s story is just beginning.
As for Luke, he does not let his type 1 diabetes define him nor does he allow it to control him. Instead he is in the driver’s seat and he controls his diabetes. Luke desires to share his story and encourage others to exercise and live a healthy lifestyle. You don’t need a fancy gym; you just have to be willing to take the first step to a better life of good health.
Luke has had a remarkable start in this journey to bring change. Many articles and publications both local and nationally have been written about his efforts for raising awareness. A local news station in Orlando ran a news story on Luke back in December 2015. Since then, Luke was named 2016 Youth Ambassador for the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure Orlando. He has already raised over $16,000 personally for the ADA, and his team has raised well over $17,000.
This was not a journey we chose, but one that was clearly chosen for us by God. We know that He is leading our steps, and guiding our path so that we can hopefully help save lives.
**Help encourage this determined young man by following Luke’s page on Facebook.