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SOUTHINGTON Essay tells of kid's life as diabetic



Published: Sat, May 26, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Southington freshman is on the honor roll and plays two sports.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

SOUTHINGTON -- Jeremy Blackstone says he has known no life except as a diabetic.

"Of the 15 years I have lived, 13 have been centered on an illness that has become my way of life," Jeremy wrote in an essay to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International. "Shots, finger pricks and IVs are my earliest memories."

Jeremy's essay about his experience with diabetes won him an expense-paid trip with his mother to Washington, D.C., where he will serve as one of 200 delegates from all 50 states to the foundation's children's congress.

There, he will swap information with other diabetic children and meet with legislators to push the foundation's agenda of increased funding for diabetes research.

Shots and finger pricks are still very much a part of the Southington High School freshman's life, along with junior varsity basketball and varsity golf, heavy metal music and daily volunteer work.

Day's activities: His daily routine calls for three finger-prick tests to determine the level of sugar in his blood, eating meals like clockwork, and at least two injections of insulin.

"I'm used to it," Jeremy said.

Jeremy has been on the honor roll for the entire year. Last week, the school presented him with an outstanding community service award for taking the time during his study hall every morning to set up snack time for a kindergarten class in the integrated K-12 building.

"He is an outstanding kid, an outstanding scholar and athlete," said David Wilson, the high school principal. "That is a pretty unique kid."

A freckled youngster with spiked hair, Jeremy takes Allen Iverson as a model for how short players like himself can succeed at basketball. He sits with a half-dozen boys his age in the school cafeteria, and sometimes they play a dice game to pass the time.

"He goes to parties, he goes to sleep-overs," said Jeremy's father, Roger Blackstone. "But he has to wake up at 7 a.m. each morning no matter if he likes to or not to prick his finger."

Diabetics lack the natural mechanism to control blood sugar levels, and the disease can lead to blindness, heart disease, kidney failure and the loss of limbs. According to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, 120 million people worldwide have the disease.

Roger Blackstone said that when his son was diagnosed at age 2, one of his first thoughts was of a childhood friend of his who went blind, then died at age 28 as a result of the disease.

What was difficult: When Jeremy was a toddler, taking care of the disease sometimes meant physically restraining him to give shots, straining creativity to make him eat even when he had no appetite, and contriving games to make him exercise on time every day.

"It was really hard when he was little," his mother, Linda, said. Because diabetics must limit their intake of sugar, Halloween meant treats made out of popcorn, and birthday parties were a persistent problem. Linda said that when her husband was at work as a supermarket manager, she would sometimes call relatives to hold Jeremy down when she had to give him insulin.

When Jeremy was in first grade, she took a job as a cashier at the school cafeteria to be available to take finger pricks and give shots before and after school. Southington schools don't have a nurse, she said.

What's improved: Since Jeremy has learned to check his blood sugar and give himself shots, the routine has become easier, his parents say. Still, there are difficulties.

"He's a teen-ager right now. They get rebellious," Roger Blackstone said. "He acts like he forgets and tries to put it off until he finishes a movie."

What do you tell him?

"He wants to play basketball," Blackstone said. "You can't play basketball if you are blind."




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