Young Athlete Earns All-America Honors While Dealing with Type 1 Diabetes
Kelby Crotty’s summer was impressive, without qualification.
A Pardeeville sixth-grader, Kelby earned All-America status while competing in the javelin at the AAU Club National Championships in Orlando, Florida in July.
Prior to that, in June, he traveled to Waukesha for the USA Track and Field Wisconsin State Meet, where he placed third in the javelin and fifth in the shotput and discus. A first-place finish in the AAU Central District Qualifier in Rockford, Illinois followed a week later. He was also third in the shot put and fourth in the discus.
Fourth- and fifth-place finishes two weeks later in the discus and shot put, respectively, at the Regional Meet in Decatur, Illinois, set the stage for his All-American performance in Orlando.
Laudable achievements, by any measure, but Kelby accomplished all of that while attending to the strict daily requirements type 1 diabetes imposes.
“I test when I eat,” Kelby says, reciting the insulin-identification ritual that involves poking his finger to produce a drop of blood that is then read by a glucose meter. “After that I figure out the carbs (carbohydrates) and put it in my (insulin) pump. I do that five to seven times a day.”
Unless it’s football season, with its vigorous conditioning sessions in the heat of summer and frigid games during late fall.
“During football season he tests five or six times during practice,” says Kelby’s father, Andy.
Kelby knows that failing to do so would invite blood sugar levels that are either too high, which makes him lightheaded and sick to his stomach, or too low, which can cause blurry vision, rapid heartbeat, shaking and dizziness.
It’s a lot to handle for a 12-year-old. But Kelby is used to it. He was diagnosed at 6 after a scary evening that started with a trip to the doctor prompted by Kelby’s stomach pain and other symptoms.
“We thought we were taking him in for a urinary tract infection or bladder infection,” Kelby’s mother, Heidi, says.
Instead they were told to go immediately to the American Family Children’s Hospital emergency room, where Kelby received the first insulin drip of his young life and his family received an immediate and thorough education in the rudiments of type 1 diabetes management.
“It was a three-day crash course,” Heidi, says.
“A crash course in how your life changes,” Andy adds.
Kelby took to the equipment involved in his management routine as easily as he would the javelin and discus.
“He did amazing,” Heidi recounts. “When we left the hospital, he was like, ‘I need my pokers and I need my test strips. I need to test my blood sugar.”
The one lingering question was sports. At the time of diagnosis Kelby was already enthusiastically involved in baseball and basketball, with football and track and field soon to come. Initially, the family feared Kelby’s diabetes might curtail his athletic exploits.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. His world is going to end,” Heidi says. “But when we looked into it we saw other athletes who were type 1 and still doing what they do.”
Kelby’s doctor, Ellen Connor, MD, a pediatric diabetes specialist at American Family Children’s Hospital, actually encouraged Kelby’s pursuits, because physical activity is an important component of counteracting diabetic symptoms.
“They kept telling him he needs to be more aware but nothing has to really change,” Heidi says.
“Keep doing what you’re doing, because you’re going to be healthier in the long run if you’re active,” Andy echoes.
That’s all Kelby needed to hear, and his track and field successes have come despite challenges most of his competitors don’t have to surmount. In 2014, for instance, two days prior to a meet, Kelby spent a night in the hospital due to hypoglycemia.
“He got out of the hospital Friday, and I told him, ‘You don’t have to compete,’” Andy says. “Then he won the state championship in javelin and finished second in shotput less than 24 hours after he was discharged.”
“I had nothing else on my mind, except to win,” Kelby says.
He played football in the fall, and was fortunate to come under the tutelage of coach Garry Gard, who also has diabetes and played football as a collegian.
“Coach said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t stop,’” Kelby says.
Kelby has taken those words to heart, and he encourages any other young athlete with diabetes to do the same.
“Never give up and keep fighting,” is Kelby’s advice to them. “You can keep doing whatever you want to do.”
It’s that attitude and spirit that Kelby’s parents feel may be their son’s most valuable achievement.
“He can change lives,” Heidi says. “All these ups and downs, everything he’s accomplished and been through…at times we forget he’s diabetic because he’s so active.”