Eighteen-year-old Landon Talley seems like any other baseball player on the Maryville High School baseball team. He hits, runs, plays third base and works out whenever he can.
Unlike other players, however, Talley must carry snacks, syringes and two types of medication into the dugout with him. The Maryville resident must have these items with him at all times to manage Type I Diabetes, a diagnosis he received about four years ago.
Diabetes, a chronic lifelong disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood, afflicts an estimated 23.6 million children and adults in the U.S. It’s also the nation’s seventh leading cause of death, primarily because of diabetes-related complications such as heart disease and stroke. Managing the illness is key to staying healthy.
Talley said he had rapidly lost about 30 pounds and was “fatigued, tired and dehydrated.” That’s when his father researched the symptoms on the Internet, then took his son to the doctor, who confirmed their suspicion. The then-14-year-old said at first, he felt angry.
“I was scared. After the first day, (though) I knew I had to take care of it,” he said.
Talley changed his diet, limiting carbohydrates, and eating several small meals a day instead of the standard three. Plus, he had to check his blood sugar several times a day, and take an injection of insulin four times a day – a big change from getting one or two shots a year to four times a day.
He asked nurses to teach him right away how to inject himself with the insulin, instead of having his mother do it for him. He wanted to learn how to take care of himself.
To effectively manage his illness before ball games, Talley said he needed to eat some sweets to create – a little sugar rush before the game so I didn’t pass out, – he said. “I ended up having to take shots in the middle of the games.”
In order to do this, Talley had to split his attention between the game and his health. By his senior year, he’d learned to do both. His fellow ballplayers tease him, referring to his insulin injections as steroids. He’s also been called “insulin pump.”
This coming fall, Talley, a 2010 Maryville High graduate, will play baseball for Maryville College. He will be the third generation in his family to do so. His grandfather, Mike Talley, and father, Mark Talley, both played baseball at the college before him. The younger Talley will attend the college on an academic scholarship after finishing high school with a 4.1 GPA.
“I have a very good support system,” he said. “My grandmother, and mother always have extra stuff in their purses and I have a great group of family and friends around me. It is a true blessing, I believe.”
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By Rheta Murry
Originally published: May 28. 2010 3:01AM