My Story: Kendall Higgs

At The Diabetes Football Community we love to share the stories of those of you who follow us. With the diverse nature of the community we support it’s always amazing to share stories from all over the world. So here we are bringing you a story from Kendall who’s based in the USA. No more words from us other than to say if you enjoyed reading Kendall’s blog please give it a share. Over to you Kendall…..

“My name is Kendall Higgs, I’m from Loxahatchee, Florida , and I’m 20 years old. I fell in love with the game of soccer at four years old. I remember feeling unstoppable with the ball at my feet. On August 3rd, 2009 my world changed. I got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 10 years old. The first three questions I would ask anyone who came into my hospital room was 1. Can I still play soccer 2. Can I still drink milk 3. Am I going to die.. in that order 😂 to some people, my priorities may have been a little off.. but for me, if I couldn’t play soccer anymore, I might as well be dead. Even though most doctors told me I most likely couldn’t continue to play, I did it anyways. I refused to allow something to take over my life. I traveled to Costa Rica at 14 and Brazil at 16 to play soccer with region 3 ODP (Olympic Development Program)

I graduated early from high school and went to University of Pittsburgh in 2017. After 3 semesters there I transferred and now play at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. Soccer has been my way to connect to people, to new places, and to different cultures. When I’m not playing soccer, I feel out of place.. and at first my T1D contributed to that “out of place” feeling. I didn’t want to embrace my Diabetes..I wanted to pretend I didn’t have it. It wasn’t until this past year that I really started to take care of myself and to fully embrace my disease. I recently started T1D1 Diabetic Athletes as a way to spread awareness, give a platform to other diabetic athletes, and to show young, aspiring T1D athletes that it does not limit, control, or lessen their ability to be successful.

Within this journey I have realized that soccer isn’t my only way to connect to people.. T1D has allowed me to connect to others battling the same illness, to learn, to empower, and so much more. I am so grateful to be apart of the T1D community.”

A big thank you from all of us at TDFC for sharing your story Kendall and if anyone else would like to share theirs please get in touch !

Our Journey with Type 1 and Football…

Another amazing story to share with the community brought to you by Karen Brown, the mother of Ellen, a young type 1 who’s having a fantastic time with her Football/Futsal at the moment. Ellen & Karen have been big advocates and supporters of our work at TDFC from the very early days so it’s brilliant to be able to share their story! No more words needed from us, over to you Karen…

“Our daughter Ellen was diagnosed at age 8 with type 1 diabetes. As you all know it hits like a bomb and the early days are hard. Somewhere amongst the haze of diagnosis we made a decision that when we got Ellen home we would stabilise her doing all of the sport she usually did. So the day after discharge we took her to school for a few hours and the following Monday she started back swimming. I sat on the edge of the pool chewing my nails hoping she would be fine. Strangely enough the year she was diagnosed is the only year she hasn’t played football (played 1 year of netball and hated it!). Ellen prefers to manage her diabetes with a pump (Medtronic) and we use CGM periodically.

Since then it has been buckets of football and within the last 4 years she has also played futsal in the off-season. It is amazing how different the two are to manage. Football often sends her low- particularly in the cold Canberra winters (we live in Australia) whereas futsal sends her high due to the adrenaline. As futsal isn’t as big in Canberra her futsal club (Boomerangs FS) travel to Sydney to play in a Sydney comp. So every Sydney game we travel between 2 ½ to 4 hours each way (depending on what side of Sydney the game is) to play. The weather in Canberra is quite dry whereas Sydney can be humid which can affect Ellen’s BGLs (sends her low) so at the half way stop en route to the game we reduce insulin if she has any carbs and put a reduced temp basal on. We find doing low carb on the morning prior to the Sydney trips much easier to manage. At least we are only fixing the humidity problem. Then during the games she heads high! Sydney games we nearly always use CGM to help keep an eye on things. If it’s a home game its breakfast as usual. After the game she eats what she wants.

Ellen Brown Picture 3

Whilst having diabetes can be tough when you are playing football and futsal, we run at it with the attitude that if we have a tough day diabetes wise we look at why and see if we can do something different. There are days when you just can’t explain why the numbers are what they are! All of her coaches and teams have been really supportive and the boys often try and guess her Blood Glucose Level – she plays in the Boys National Premier League. Ellen also chooses to celebrate her ‘diaversary’, so the team usually hangs out for the cupcakes she takes along to celebrate another year kicking the butt of diabetes.

Having diabetes hasn’t stopped Ellen from achieving in soccer and futsal. The last 12 months have been particularly rewarding!!! 12 months ago her girls futsal team won both the premiership and championship in the Sydney comp. For outdoor her BBFC U16’s team made the Grand Final and won in a penalty shootout. She then made the ACT team (regional team) to play futsal at Nationals in January – they were runners up in the Grand Final in a penalty shootout. And a couple of weeks ago at the presentation night for Boomerangs FS, Ellen was awarded female player of the year. We are pretty proud of her. Winning isn’t everything but it is great to get some wins and they have been a while coming!! Though I must say the victories are much sweeter after the effort you put in to get the diabetes right. (excuse the pun!)

Ellen Brown Picture 1

As much as it is a challenge, there have been lots of good things about having diabetes in our lives for the last 8 years. We have made a whole new bunch of friends we wouldn’t have otherwise met. Whilst it is so nice being able to converse with those who understand the challenges and learn new things from. Ellen has had the opportunity to speak at JDRF fundraisers and she was recently asked to take part in some research at ANU.

Being part of TDFC has been a huge help though. It was so nice to hear from others who play football and be able to read about their experiences. With Ellen being a girl it was so nice to read about Noel and what she has achieved. We got to meet Zac (UK DiaEuro Player) at one of Ellen’s games in Sydney and hope to see him again soon. Whilst it’s also great to see that Chris represented his country in Futsal, which gives Ellen so much hope she can achieve the same.

Ellen Brown Picture 4

To any young footballer out there, chase your dreams. Ellen’s favourite saying is “I don’t live with diabetes, diabetes lives with me”.”

 

A really great blog written by Karen Brown and a huge thank you from us for putting it together. If there’s anyone out there reading this who’d like to contribute in a similar way get in touch! We’re always on the look out for blogs and stories to share…

It’s much more than just Football or Futsal… Part 4 (Zak Brown)

In our fourth instalment we feature Zak Brown… Zak is currently living and working in Australia but has been heavily involved in all things TDFC throughout 2018 as a pivotal member of the UK DiaEuro squad, whilst also heading out to Ireland with Chris to observe the Diabetes Junior Cup… Zak’s passion for the project is evident and in this post he shares his thoughts on how being involved has helped him! No more words from us, over to you Zak:

“I think firstly and foremost, the opportunity to meet several other T1D’s with a passion for football was amazing in itself! To then be able to discuss our condition as we went through very similar schedules during DiaEuro was great – having a diabetes discussion with your team-mates was like having 10 nurses beside us, as they added great value through personal stories and specialist advice.

The access to technology was a huge thing for me personally. I was a bit skeptical of the Dexcom G6 initially, as I have been on the same insulin and blood sugar testing strategy for a number of years and been relatively consistent (HbA1c usually between 50 and 61). It took a couple of days to adapt but several months later and I wish I still had the G6. I regularly see T1D’s on social media posting about how much the Dexcom has improved their control in recent times.

The other thing which was highlighted for me was the carb counting. I have generally just guessed my insulin based on what I am eating and knowing how it has affected my sugars in the past, but to see plenty of my UK team-mates measuring the carbs on their packets of food and calculating their dinner plate in the their head was a good insight for me; and pushed me to start making more calculated guesses with my own carb intake as life and diabetes continued after the tournament.

Whilst I wouldn’t say the experience has directly improved my control yet, I think it has acted as a gateway for me to access more information, attend diabetes meet-ups and possibly gain access to modern technology, which I expect will have a direct improvement on my Type 1 Diabetes control moving forward! Only time will tell…

Zak Brown

UK DiaEuro 2018 Player”

If you want to follow Zak’s journey on social media head to his twitter @mrzakbrown or his instagram @zakbtown

Food Series Part 1 – Healthy Eating: Getting the balance right

My name is Jo Hanna and I am one of the Diabetes Dietitians working at Poole Hospital but also a huge exercise enthusiast! I’ve been a Dietitian for 8 years now and working in diabetes for 5. Secretly I always wanted to be a Sports Dietitian working for Manchester United! I grew up playing football and most of my childhood was spent as the token girl in the team, even playing for Dorset under 12s. Football was my true passion but sadly for me at the time football was still considered a ‘boys sport’ and once I reached the age of 12 I was told by my school I could no longer play football with the boys. I was devastated by this at the time and although I got back into football at University it was too late for me so I ended up running instead. I have pushed myself in this area, winning 6 of the Dorset Road League races last year in addition to my greatest achievement, a sub 3 hour London marathon.

Exercise for me, as I’m sure it is for many of you is my stress release and plays a huge part in my self-esteem and social life. It therefore really saddens me that 36% of people living with type 1 diabetes view exercising to be a challenge. To be honest I’m surprised it’s not higher! I decided along with our consultant Mike Masding that it was worth trying to target this group in a specific exercise clinic to allow tailored advice around nutrition and insulin adjustment, to enable those struggling to enjoy their exercise and de-stress rather than the opposite. Training as I well know is challenging enough without throwing diabetes into the mix! I’m keen to ‘even the playing field’ in any way I can.

I decided I wanted to write for the TDFC to see if I can help advise the wider sporting community and given my passion for football in particular I thought this would be the perfect place. It’s inspiring to see the UK’s first all Diabetic Futsal team (Click for Players’ Blog) competing this summer as well as the results they achieved. I work with children and teenagers with diabetes too and feel these players are a great role model.

My aim is to write a different blog every few weeks with a few tips and hints to help you get your fueling right both pre, during and after. Often we tend to base our advice around timing and quantity of carbohydrates but as I have come to understand the quality of the carbohydrates and protein and fluid intake are also key components I would like to cover. I’m keen to help and advise in any way I can so please if you have any particular topics you would like covered just let me know.

Firstly today let’s consider your overall daily intake as it’s always best to review this whether you have diabetes or not if you’re serious about your sport. Often I’m finding overall carbohydrate intakes are inadequate as the focus tends to be around the actual activity itself. Football is a classic example of a sport that can actually result in quite stable readings at the time due to the fact there is a mixture of slower jogging and sprints. The bigger risk here is hypos after the game or training due to depleted glycogen and increased metabolism, this is a really important aspect to consider when avoiding the dreaded nocturnal hypos. To help avoid this ideally if you’re training regularly you need 50% of your intake to come from carbohydrates (including fruit).Protein should contribute approximately 25% of your diet (timing is key with this) and the other 25% should come from your vegetables and salad. Fat is likely to come alongside your carbs and protein intake but can also be a useful tool in helping to alter the timing of peak absorption of glucose from any carbohydrate. Don’t forget your fluid either as even if you have your glucose levels perfect if you’re dehydrated, even by 2% this will impair your performance.

Over my next blogs we can look at;

  • Carbohydrates-type and quantity pre, during and post (this might be a few blogs).
  • Protein -why it’s important and timing of this.
  • Fruit and vegetables-why these are important too
  • Fluid-getting this right

Feel free to contact me at Joanna.hanna@poole.nhs.uk