Drew is a junior and three sport varsity athlete at Rumson Fair Haven High School. He has been able to maintain an excellent grade point average, his demanding athletic schedule and his social life all while managing his type 1 diabetes (T1D). Drew enjoys giving back to his community by being a JDRF Youth Ambassador and being a role model for younger children with T1D. Having T1D has never stopped him from pursuing his dreams and he is an example to kids everywhere that anything is possible.
What is your T1D story?
I was diagnosed when I was 12 years old and in 7th grade at Rumson Country Day School. My parents noticed that I had been losing some weight. But they didn’t think much of it because I was very active. However I had an extreme thirst and I was constantly drinking whatever I could get my hands on. One night my mom saw me chugging Gatorade and she looked at me and said “something’s wrong. Why are you so thirsty all the time”? My parents ended up taking me to the emergency room where they told us my blood sugar was over 600. We didn’t know what that meant but could tell by everyone’s reactions at the hospital that it wasn’t good. We didn’t know the first thing about diabetes. I stayed in the hospital for a couple of days where they tried to teach me about diabetes management. I don’t really remember anything they said. But thankfully, my school nurse, Anne Kerr has a son who also has type 1 diabetes. Therefore, Mrs. Kerr knew exactly what needed to be done to help me. She encouraged me to do all the sports I was doing before and taught me about carb counting and bolusing.
Sports are a big part of your life. How do you manage your T1D while staying so active?
Sports has always been a big part of my life; I am a three sport varsity athlete and have been since my freshman year of high school. I have won 6 state championships. It has been a lot of fun but also a lot of work managing this with type 1 diabetes. I test before each practice or game. I keep Gatorades or juice boxes on the sidelines. I eat a lot of protein and carbs a few hours before I compete. All my teammates are aware that I am T1D and of course my coaches and athletic trainers as well. They know that if I’m feeling low I can come off the field or court and drink a Gatorade. When I finish a game there can be a lag of a few hours before my blood sugar regulates so I always know to anticipate that and be ready for any lows.
One of the hardest parts of being a three sport athlete is that all three sports affect my blood sugar differently. The level and length of running is different for every sport that I play. Football is less running and more weight training and cardio. Basketball is all running without break for the entire game and lacrosse is full field running in intervals ( I’m a midfielder ). Because each sport is so different and each requires a different level and type of exertion I am always struggling to find the right way to control my blood sugar. It’s difficult and sometimes leaves me with some big lows and highs as I move from sport to sport.
We hear that you were just given a very special award. Can you tell us about it?
Yes, I just found out that I am the first ever recipient of the Jay Patock Unsung Hero Award. It is an award given to one Monmouth county high school football player who has shown excellence in athletics in the face of adversity. I am honored that my football coach, Jerry Schulte, nominated me for it.
How did you get connected to JDRF?
We learned about the One Walk from the Absatz family and thought it would be a great way to for all my friends and family to get a better understanding of what I deal with and also of course to raise money. My parents have had my team “Drew’s Crew” tee shirts made every other year for my friends and family. We always throw a big party after the walk for everyone which has been great.
A sense of community has helped you manage T1D. How have you given back?
I feel that I have really given back to the T1D community by educating my friends, teachers and coaches on what it’s like to be T1D. Even though it’s very frustrating at times; it doesn’t stop me from achieving my goals. I’m able to manage school, sports, friends and social life all while having type 1 diabetes. I hope my success could be an inspiration to kids who are struggling with a new diagnosis or are having a hard time managing this. I think it would have helped me early on if I could have known about someone who was doing all the things that I hoped to do. I heard about professional athletes (like Jay Cutler) but they seemed farfetched to me. I’m just a 16 year old at a regular high school. But even with diabetes I have been in 7 states championship games in three different sports and won 6 of them, which I am really proud of. I really hate having diabetes but I am thankful too. I’m doing my best with the same disease as so many other people. Hopefully people read this and can share with their kids that diabetes is not completely limiting and you can really accomplish anything.
My school nurse introduced me to a younger student who had just recently been diagnosed at my school. He was really having a hard time. So I would meet with him in the nurse’s office and we would talk about diabetes and how hard it is but I told him I was playing 3 sports and that nothing was holding me back. I think I really helped him to feel better which was great.
How has the JDRF impacted your life? And what does a cure mean to you?
JDRF has impacted my life in so many ways. I feel great knowing that JDRF will help to bring the cure that I want. Living with T1D is really really hard. I get frustrated and hate having to deal with things that my friends don’t have to. My parents are always worried about me and check in on me much more than my friends parents do. I hate worrying about my blood sugar all the time. And managing all my supplies. I would love to just eat without having to think about carbs and insulin ratios and not being able to eat whatever I want when I want to. I hate the overnight low blood sugars that have had me up and not sleeping and missing school. So yes, JDRF is hugely important to me as a cure can’t come soon enough.
Last year at our Cheers to Our Heroes event we honored your school nurse, Ann Kerr. You presented her with the award. How did that you make you feel?
My old school nurse, Ann Kerr, was a lifesaver for me and my family. She was so knowledgeable and kind, and she was there for me in every possible way when I was newly diagnosed. Around midnight the night of my diagnosis, she called my parents to introduce herself and let them know that her son has T1D also. It meant so much to us that she reached out to us even though we didn’t know each other that well. She was the reason that I was able to get through the two first years of my T1D in middle school because I had no idea what I was doing. I absolutely loved being able to introduce her last year, as she is my hero. This community has provided me with a sense of hope. I know that there are people working tirelessly everyday raising money and researching, and I’m so proud to be a part of it.
Please join us as we honor Drew and others at the Cheers to Our Heroes event on March 15, 2019 at the Navesink Country Club. This will be an evening celebrating our local T1D heroes, like Drew, who inspire others to be brave, be strong and continue to help turn Type One into Type None. Guests of the event will explore NJ’s libation scene with vendors, distilleries and brews from the Garden State and beyond.