Friday 23 September 2011

Diabetes on the Ice; It's a Whole Other Game

When Dylan asked me in the spring of 2010 if he could start playing ice hockey, I have to admit, my reaction was less than thrilled. Yes, hockey is the national sport in Canada, and yes, we Canadians take our hockey pretty seriously, but the fast-paced, hard-hitting, high intensity game watched on tv rises to a whole new level when my type 1 diabetic son asks to play the same game. 

I had so many questions, so many worries. Some were typical of any parent...
~ Was he too old to start playing in grade 5? At the time Dylan asked, he couldn't even walk in ice skates, yet he would be playing with boys who began the sport at age 3.
~ What if he got hurt? Dylan was small for his age when he started playing, and very thin. I was terrified he'd break a bone.
~ Could we handle the long term financial commitment? Team fees alone are $600 a year, plus equipment, power skating, tournaments, off season training, etc.
~ Could I juggle the time commitment? A minimum of 1 weekend game and 2 before school, 6:00 am practices a week, plus 1 power skating lesson a week.
~ Would the behind-the-scenes competitiveness drive me crazy? There are always parents who think their child is going to be the next big thing, and hockey is no exception. In this sport parents can be aggressive,  overly competitive, and mean, taking the game far too seriously. Could I be a part of the team without being part of the drama?

Some were exclusive to a parent of a child with diabetes...
~ How would his blood sugar react to the intense level of performance? Games are 60 minutes long and the intensity never slows. Should he test in intermission, or do I let him stay with the other boys?
~ Do we run a temp basal or just suspend the pump altogether? The intensity is so high, would be need insulin for that hour, or would burn enough carbohydrates that it would balance out?
~ What if he gets hit too hard? This is a child who has had seizures in the past. Now they were hypoglycemic induced, but he does have a low seizure threshold. Could a hard hit induce a seizure on the ice?
~ Would the hockey schedule greatly impact his diabetes routine? 2 early morning practices a week mean less sleep, different breakfast time, etc. How would that work with his current pump settings?

And finally, my biggest worry...
~Could I put everything above aside and say yes? Not just because it would make my child happy, but because it would reinforce the message that we have always tried to live by: 

Diabetes does not stand in our way.

Well, that was 18 months ago, and yesterday Dylan had his first practice for his second season of ice hockey. We've adapted pretty well and so far, everything has been pretty good. There will be some tweaking to pump setting and pre-game meals over the next few weeks, but we can handle that. And has diabetes stood in Dylan's way of playing a sport he adores? No way. 

And just in case you didn't already know, there have been a few players in the NHL with type 1 diabetes. Nick Boynton has enjoyed a professional hockey career of over 10 years already, and currently plays for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes shortly before his first NHL training camp, and has never let his diabetes prevent him from playing the game he loves. Listen to him talk about it here: 

Other current and past NHL players who have type 1 diabetes include Bobby Clarke (diagnosed at age 13), Toby Petersen (diagnosed at age 5), and Curt Frasier (diagnosed at age 25), 

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