No Slowing Down: 11-Year-Old Manages Diabetes

Friday, August 13, 2010
Travis Smith takes a turn on the climbing wall during the Diabetes Centerís Camp DAY Break for children with diabetes last month at HealthPoint Fitness in Jackson.

Travis Smith is the type of person you'll never forget. His positive attitude and engaging personality are contagious, making it impossible not to like him. Even more impressive is the optimistic approach this Charleston, MO, boy has to managing his diabetes.

"I tell myself it could be worse," Travis says. "It's normal for me now; I don't worry about it much. You deal with it and you learn something new every day about managing diabetes."

This wasn't always the case, however. When Travis was first diagnosed with diabetes at age 5, his blood sugar level was 816 (compared to his normal level of 80 to 140). "The doctor said I probably would have been in a coma by the next day," Travis said.

Now, six years later, he has learned to not only successfully manage his diabetes by staying active and using an insulin pen, but to find the silver lining in the situation as well.

Travis says he used to hold back on some activities, worry about how people would react, and was scared of getting shots. Now, he has not only learned the best place to get shots (stomach and legs); he's also learned to give himself shots and enjoys seeing his friends' reactions. "I love terrifying them," he says with a grin.

He also has learned what he can and can't eat to satisfy his sweet tooth. "You've got to watch out for those cookies with icing in the middle," he says.

Travis says his diabetes has also brought his family closer together and helped him realize what good friends he has.

Travis won't let diabetes slow him down. He enjoys basketball, riding bikes and four-wheelers, and playing drums and the guitar, which he says has an added bonus -- the calluses on his fingers keep it from hurting when he checks his blood sugar.

Now that Travis has learned to manage his diabetes, he tries to help others better understand and cope with the disease. "You've got to approach it head-on," he says.

"I was scared to death when Travis was first diagnosed," says his mother, Nicky Klunk. "He's been such a good sport about it, and going on the pen and getting more education has really helped."

The family sought help from Southeast's Diabetes Center, which helped Travis learn how to count carbs, take his own blood sugar and better care for himself. That's helped him at school and when he is with friends, Klunk says. The Center also provided training for staff at Travis' school, and for his parents and grandparents.

"Increasing a caregiver's understanding of what the child is dealing with can help build confidence and strengthen relationships," says Janet Stewart, MSA, BSN, RNC, CDE, a nurse and certified diabetes educator at the Diabetes Center. "The Diabetes Center can give them that education and support."

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