FISHERSVILLE – Kerri Wood was trying to find simple explanations for her son’s symptoms.
Gage Wood’s recent growth spurt explained the leg cramps so his mom made him eat bananas for the potassium. When he wasn’t playing baseball — he’s a member of Wilson Memorial’s varsity baseball team — he was practicing several hours a day and that was a pretty good reason for his weight loss, although maybe not the 24 pounds in a month.
But there were other things that weren’t as easily explained. Constant trips to the bathroom and the seemingly unending thirst and the heartburn. All of it together was enough to finally convince Kerri to take her son to his doctor.
Gage’s blood glucose level was 570 milligrams of glucose per deciliter (mg/dl). The normal range is less than 100 mg/dl. He also had high levels of ketones, indicating there wasn’t enough insulin in his body.
His doctor sent Gage to the University of Virginia Medical Center and by the time he arrived his blood glucose levels were above 800 mg/dl. It was so high it wouldn’t even register on the meters. Kerri said the health professionals at UVA were worried that he might suffer a stroke.
There were several health issues from which Gage could be suffering, including kidney failure and pancreatic cancer, but it was finally determined the 15-year-old high school freshman had Type 1 diabetes.
Kerri said of all of the possibilities diabetes was probably the best one, but Andy Wood said he was “floored” and probably took the news worse than his wife or son. He was looking at the long-term effects and realized this wasn’t a condition that could be cured with a couple of weeks of medicine.
“He’s had so much going his way, with his athletic abilities,” said Andy. “Then they throw a roadblock in front of him.”
Kerri quickly responded.
“It’s not a roadblock,” she said. Kerri understands there will be changes to the way Gage — to the way all of the family — lives now, but that doesn’t mean he can’t continue to live a normal life, one that will certainly include baseball.
How it would affect baseball was Gage’s biggest concern.
“It scared me a lot, actually,” he said. “That’s one of the things that I was scared about while I was in the hospital.”
Some of his Wilson Memorial teammates paid him a visit at UVA, spending a few hours with him.
“It definitely meant a lot,” said Gage. “It was something that could take my mind off of the situation that was going on and I could hang out with all my friends, play games and stuff like that. It made things a lot easier.”
As it turned out, he had plenty of baseball still to play as well.
Gage was released from UVA on April 22 after a two-night stay and, although he didn’t play, he was at Wilson’s baseball game that night against Page County. Three nights later he was the designated hitter in the Hornets’ next game against Lee High and two nights after that he was back in the field at second base.
“We were really excited when he came back out,” said Wilson Memorial sophomore Derrick Sutton. “We were excited to have him back.”
Gage has to take a minimum of four insulin injections a day, but sometimes it’s as many as six. He has to check his blood glucose every two hours — during the night Kerri checks it for him and it’s gotten to the point he doesn’t even wake up when she pricks his finger.
The insulin injections are administered in the arm or stomach and he has learned how to give them to himself.
“At first it stung, but now I think I’m used to it,” said Gage.
The ideal range is between 80 and 120 mg/dl, but as long as he’s below 300 there’s no real need for concern. The biggest issue is when his numbers drop below 80. Low blood glucose, or
hypoglycemia, can cause him to pass out.
“I start getting really dizzy,” said Gage. “I hold up my hands and they’re real shaky. I start getting kind of sweaty.”
At first it was pretty scary, but now Gage knows that if he starts feeling dizzy to check his glucose and eat something with carbohydrates.
The last-resort is an injection of Glucagon if he is suffering from severe hypoglycemia. Some teammates have been trained on how to administer the injection if needed. Sutton was one of the players who volunteered. Not only is he close friends with Wood, but he is also considering pursuing sports medicine in college and thought this would be a good lesson to learn.
“The main thing is just don’t panic when the situation comes up,” said Sutton.
For his part, Gage is handling the situation as well as any teenager could be expected.
“I kind of know this is how things are going to be from here on out,” said Gage. “There’s nothing I can do about it. So I’m just going to get with the program and go with it.”