Towards the end of August 2017, our son Nathan was complaining of excessive thirst. A pharmacist confirmed his blood sugar levels were excessively high, and after a trip to the GP and then Emergency it was confirmed that he had Type 1 diabetes. All this happened within an eight hour period.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when a person’s pancreas produces little or no Insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. It means that Nathan has to monitor his blood sugar levels and inject units of Insulin prior to breakfast, lunch and dinner. He also needs to take an Insulin injection before bedtime. The whole family need to be aware of what to do in the event of Nathan having a ‘Hypo’, which is when blood sugar levels go so low that he may faint or go into a coma.
Nathan was involved in soccer and also did some boxing at the time we began parkrunning together in January 2016. He completed the course in 41:39 by speed walking. He was initially reluctant about early Saturday morning starts, but after some gentle persuasion he has grown to love parkrun. parkrun provides us with some male bonding time and the chance to get some exercise together. Of the 20 parkruns Nathan has completed in 2017, we have done 19 together.
It is remarkable the effect that parkrunning has had on Nathan in many respects. His blood sugar levels have frequently halved after parkrun, and as the Diabetes Nurse would say, if exercise could be taken in pill form there would be no need for Insulin.
Nathan also has asthma, which initially caused him breathlessness during parkrunning, resulting in him using his blue reliever inhaler up to three times. However during his previous few parkruns Nathan has not used this inhaler at all. He still carries the inhaler with him on his run and always takes some prior to the run, but his asthma is much improved.
Nathan’s confidence has grown too, especially because of the praise he receives from his fellow parkrunners, and a great example of this was earlier this month. Nathan was preparing for his first solo parkrun as I was volunteering that day – he was nervous that morning and would have been happy to finish just under 30 minutes, although secretly he was hoping to break his PB of 29:10. Thanks to the encouragement of his fellow parkrunners, Nathan finished in an amazing time of 28:13. He was tired but elated at the end of the run, and couldn’t wait for his results to come through. Then, the following week, we ran together and Nathan recorded a new PB of 27:51.
Nathan is proof that Type 1 diabetes and asthma are no barriers to physical activity, provided they are managed appropriately, and I would recommend parkrun to anyone.
What’s most impressive though is that Nathan always runs with a smile on his face, and we share a lot of funny stories with each other. I can’t stress how good parkrun has been for us as a family, and how much we’ve benefited from becoming part of the parkrun family.
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