Two athletes manage their disease
By Holly Neumann
It takes more than just getting new shoes and staying in shape to prepare for the high school football season.
Billy Murphy, who plays for the Manawa Wolves, and Kyle Jobke, who plays for the Iola-Scandinavia Thunderbirds, had never met until their teams’ Aug. 19 season opener in Scandinavia. They may suit up for different teams, but the seniors are fighting the same battle against Type 1 diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association, Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone needed to allow sugar to enter cells to produce energy.
Murphy has been living with the disease since age 2, while Jobke was diagnosed in June and is just finding out what life is like with the disease.
“I don’t remember life without it,” Murphy said. “It has just always been something that I have had to deal with.”
On a normal day, both boys do an average of seven blood tests to check their sugar levels. This routine, however, changes during football season.
“It is all so overwhelming and a little scary at first,” Jobke said. “Since diabetes is still pretty new to me, I really don’t know how my blood sugars are going to react so I have to monitor them more closely.”
Murphy’s routine changes during football season. He uses an insulin pump to treat his diabetes and has to adjust the continuous rate of insulin he is supplied while playing.
“I also have to check my blood sugars more often and instead of worrying about going low from activity,” he said. “I have to worry about going high from adrenalin. I also have to drink a lot more water. People don’t realize that I will dehydrate a lot faster than other kids.”
Part of their routine also includes testing their blood sugars at halftime and having snacks and juices on the sidelines during games and practices.
“I have to take my pump off during the game,” Murphy said. “During halftime, I test my sugars, then hook up again, It’s not always easy to remember at game time. Sometimes, I do forget.”
“Kyle is doing great managing his diabetes,” Iola-Scandinavia coach Scott Erickson said. “Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he has attacked the issue and has an attitude that this will not slow him down or stop him from his goals.”
“Billy does his best to not let his diabetes get in the way,” Manawa coach Brad Johnson said. “I never hear him complain of it and he doesn’t make excuses. Occasionally, he will have to leave practice to go check, but other than that, you wouldn’t even know he has it.”
Murphy and Jobke said their teammates are very supportive.
“Whenever I have to do a blood test or shot, they all come around me,” Jobke said. “They definitely want to know what I am doing and they ask a lot of questions. When I told them I take four shots a day, they all say, ‘Wow.’”
Murphy smiled as he recalled those same experiences.
“I remember one time when everyone was all around me and my mom was even in the huddle,” he said. “My teammates have grown up with me having diabetes, so now it’s just routine to them. They are there to help me when I need it and know when I am low, to get me food.”
Both players said the hardest part of the disease revolves around eating.
“You cannot always eat whatever you want, whenever you want,” Murphy said. “Sometimes, you have to say no and there are the times when you are low and you have to eat when you really don’t want to.”
“I used to just grab food whenever I wanted,” Jobke said. “I cannot do that anymore. I have to count carbs and make good choices.”
Diabetes management requires a lot of self-discipline.
“Knowing what to do in all situations takes a lot of responsibility,” Murphy said. “You have to take it seriously. My friends have no idea was an A1C is or why counting carbs is important.”
Jobke and his family are taking classes to learn how to manage the disease.
“It gets to be overwhelming, but they keep telling me in time it will get easier,” he said. “I worry about having bad lows where I cannot take care of myself.”
Along with the disease comes people that just don’t understand.
“I feel like I always have to prove myself to everyone,” Murphy said. “There are people that thought I could not play sports and even thought I was contagious. It has made me practice that much harder.”
The journey has not always been easy for their parents.
“I remember when Billy was tiny, I used to have to run and catch him then sit on him to give him his shots,” Marie Murphy said. “You always worry about them.”
“You feel helpless,” Kurt Jobke said. “There was nothing we could do about this to make it better.”
Both boys hope to one day see a cure.
“Would I get rid of diabetes?” Murphy asked. “Yes, but there are a lot of worse things. This is manageable. Just because you have had a burden placed on you doesn’t mean you have to give up.
“Chase your dreams,” he added. “Defy the odds and become great.”