Sacred Heart softball freshman Isabella Boyd has been knocking it out of the park this season.
She leads the 14-8 Valkyries in batting average (.406) and stolen base (16) and is tied for the lead in hits with 28. Not bad for a player that lives with diabetes.
Also a cross country runner and swimmer, Boyd was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes five years ago.
She first started showing symptoms of her condition during the summer of 2017 when she was 10 years old.
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John Boyd, Isabella’s father, said she was dehydrated more often and wasn’t performing to her normal level during her athletic activities that summer. She struggled to maintain her weight.
“My parents noticed I was losing weight, but I was constantly eating,” Boyd said. “And I was always really tired.”
After a family vacation to the Gulf Coast, Boyd saw a doctor.
“They tested her blood sugar, it was absolutely through the roof,” John said. “They sent us to the ER and (we) came out two days later with a 10-year-old child with Type 1 diabetes.”
Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which a person’s pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone that allows glucose, or sugar, to enter cells for energy production. There’s currently no cure for it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 37.3 million Americans have diabetes, which includes 244,000 youth and adolescents under 20 years old who have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
“I was upset at first,” Boyd said. “But knowing that it was manageable and that I could live my life still and be healthy was reassuring.”
Boyd and her family went about educating themselves about diabetes, which included learning how to consistently monitor her blood sugar levels, keeping insulin close at hand and changing her diet by cutting carbs and sugars. Boyd and her family also had a discussion about what it would look like for her to return to playing sports as safely as possible.
“We said, ‘Alright, this is our new world,’” John said. “We’re going to do the best that we can with this and take advantage of all the technology and medicine that’s out there.”
About a month and a half after her diagnosis, Boyd was back on the field competing in a softball tournament.
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Now she plays with some new gear. Boyd wears two different devices for her diabetes while she competes. One device, a continuous glucose monitor called a Dexcom, is inserted into her arms or leg to monitor her blood sugar levels and sends that information through an app to her Apple watch and her parents’ phones. The other device is an insulin pod, which is also inserted in her arm or leg and administers insulin as she needs it.
Boyd doesn’t feel like there are limitations on what she can do during practice or games, as long as she takes certain precautions to make sure her blood sugar level is at a good level for athletic activity.
“Before practice or games, I always check my blood sugar and make sure I’m in a good spot,” Boyd said. “If my blood sugar is low, I can just call timeout and fruit snacks brought out. If I see my blood sugar is going high, I usually can just wait until the inning is over and I’m in the dugout and can (take) insulin. My parents can also see my blood sugar through their phones, so they’re always on alert.”
Sacred Heart softball coach Bob Wheatley said he’s never coached a player who played with diabetes, but there was no hesitation on his part to keep her on the roster once she laid out the precautions that she would need to take in order to play safely.
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Wheatley’s been impressed with Boyd’s performance at the plate and on the field, but he’s equally moved by the fact Boyd doesn’t let her diabetes turn into a hinderance or excuse for herself.
“I don’t hear whining (or) complaining,” Wheatley said. “She just goes and puts the work in. She is more than holding her own and competing.”
Boyd hopes she can be an inspiration for other kids with diabetes through demonstrating what’s she capable of on the field.
“I think it’s really cool to be able to represent the group of people that do have it and show that you still can play sports and live your life,” Boyd said. ”It would be cool to show other people that it doesn’t stop and prevent you from doing what you want to achieve.”
Reach Jonathan Saxon at [email protected] or 502-715-1393 and follow him on Twitter at @TheSleepyScribe.