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I know a young man. He is only 17. He appears to be a typical, everyday, run-of-the-mill teenager. He wears pants that are a size too big. His hair is in a crew cut. He drives a 1986 Nissan pickup with the windows down and the stereo blasting. He winks at the girls while sitting at the red lights and has a charming half-grin when he smiles.
His real name is Dustin Hubbard, but he goes by the nickname Dusty.He is a high school senior in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is a highly motivated, goal-oriented teenager. He is a gymnast, NCAA gymnastics judge, a boy's gymnastics coach and a girl's cheerleading coach. He intends to have his own business some day when he finishes college. He has a drive and a desire to succeed like few young people his age, let alone adults twice his age.
He also has type 1 diabetes, but he doesn't let that slow him down. He doesn't wallow in self-pity because he has to draw blood from his fingers four or five times per day or complain about the routine injections he must give himself before every meal.
He makes no excuses.
A Remarkable Resilience
Dusty was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on his sixth birthday. Instead of feeling sorry for himself and using his medical condition as an excuse for poor health, lack of motivation, rebellion or failure, Dusty has chosen to make very different decisions about how he leads his life. He displays a remarkable resilience, even in the face of adversity.
"I feel diabetes has made me a better person," he says. "I have a greater respect for life, not to mention an overall respect for my health."
Wading Through Personal Obstacles
When asked how he has been able to lead a healthy, normal life with diabetes, Dusty replies, "By staying athletically active. I've been an athlete my entire life, even before my diabetes diagnosis. I've seen firsthand what can happen when you don't take care of your diabetes, and it has opened my eyes."
Dusty's father, who also has type 1 diabetes, didn't have the technology that we have today, and it has taken a toll on him, both mentally and physically. He is now awaiting a simultaneous kidney-pancreas transplant at UCLA Medical Center.
In addition to his father's diabetes-related illnesses, Dusty has waded through his own personal obstacles with diabetes. He remembers when he was in elementary school and one of his classmates told him he was a freak.
"I just thought it was so offensive," he says. "From that time forward, I looked for every opportunity to give presentations in school to help people better understand diabetes."
As Dusty's mother, I have had to deal with everything from an uneducated nurse refusing to allow him to drink a soda when his BGs were low to a summer recreation program director mistaking diabetes for hemophilia. In spite of the ignorance of both the general public and even some health care professionals, Dusty has never let any of these obstacles get in his way.
"I feel it is difficult for me to get stronger," he says. "I have to work even harder at my sports just to get to the level of the other athletes because of the difficulty of balancing my blood sugars with the foods I eat and my level of activity. So I have to be even more determined to get to where I want to be."
Dusty became one of the youngest NCAA certified gymnastics judges in the nation. He received the Coach of the Year award in 1998 for his dedication to the kids he has taught at Duke City Gymnastics Sports Academy in Albuquerque.
According to his own coach and mentor, Jerry Nickels, co-owner of the gym, "Dustin has been a tremendous asset to our competitive program at Duke City. He does a great job of demonstrating leadership qualities in our gym. He has a mannerism which has gained him the respect, trust and friendship of his peers as well as the younger competitive gymnasts."
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.