Living with diabetes

Jason Malloy
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12-year-old Charlottetown resident maintains active life after diagnosis

Will Harrison loves sports. The Charlottetown resident hasn’t let having type-1 diabetes change that. He left Tuesday night for Switzerland where he will play with Team Canada at the Junior Cup Diabetes in Switzerland.

Will Harrison remembers the night like it was yesterday.

The eight-year-old Charlottetown resident had just been told he had type 1 diabetes and given two needles.

“I asked my dad this one question the first night, ‘how long do I have to take needles and insulin?’” Will, now 12, said Monday night.

His father David wiped away the tears and replied, “it’s like brushing your teeth and going to the bathroom, it’s something you have to do for the rest of your life.”

It initially saddened the youngster, but he hasn’t let it slow him down.

Will plays hockey and is the keeper for the Charlottetown Winsloe Royals in the under-12 premier soccer division. He will wear a different uniform this week when he represents Canada at the Junior Cup Diabetes in Switzerland.

He earned the right to play for his country after filling out an application form about how diabetes has impacted his life.

“It is something I had to be more careful about, something I had to watch and be more responsible,” Will said.

Will tests his blood sugar by drawing blood from his finger and checking it with a meter.

“It’s about a 30-second process,” he said.

If it is low he takes sugar tablets or has a glass of juice, waits 15 minutes and retests.

He also manages his diabetes with an insulin pump that is programmed to deliver insulin similar to the way a normal pancreas does.

Will’s parents remember the uncertainty of that night four years ago when their son was diagnosed. The family quickly integrated the layer of management into their day.

“It’s just part of our life now, but it’s not the focus,” said his mother Patti Devine.

“He’s done everything any other kid would do,” David added.

Will is looking forward to the trip to the European country. He is exciting about visiting Switzerland, seeing the mountains and “tasting the chocolate.”

This is the first time Canada is sending a team to the event.

Will has a message for other children who also have diabetes.

“It’s a bump in the road,” he said. “You can do whatever other kids do, you just have to be more careful and responsible.”



Junior Cup Diabetes

What: An international soccer tournament for children, aged eight to 12, living with type 1 diabetes

Where: Lausanne, Switzerland

When: Friday to Sunday.

Who: More than 130 children from 13 countries, including 11 players from Canada. Charlottetown’s Will Harrison is one of the Canadians. Other teams are from Belgium/Luxembourg, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Poland, England, Ireland, France, Italy, Slovakia and Hungary.

Organizers: Medtronic, a world leader in medical technology for diabetes management, in collaboration with several international partners. Medtronic’s headquarters is in Brampton, Ont.

Main objective: Offer young people with type-1 diabetes and their parents a unique opportunity to learn about the better management of diabetes and to share their experiences with friends while having fun playing soccer.




What is type 1 diabetes?

Your body gets energy by making glucose from foods like bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, milk and fruit. To use this glucose, your body needs insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body control the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood.

Type 1 diabetes is a disease in which the pancreas does not produce insulin. If you have type 1 diabetes, glucose builds up in your blood instead of being used for energy.

The cause of type 1 diabetes remains unknown. However, it is not preventable, and it is not caused by eating too much sugar. The body’s defense system may attack insulin-making cells by mistake, but we don’t know why. People are usually diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before the age of 30, most often during childhood or their teens.

Source: Canadian Diabetes Association

Organizations: Medtronic, Canadian Diabetes Association

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Canada, Switzerland Lausanne Belgium Luxembourg Germany Spain Poland England Ireland France Italy Slovakia Brampton

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Recent comments

  • Mr.MacV
    September 04, 2012 - 18:53

    What a fantastic experience... Will's attitude and positive nature makes working with him a pleasure.. Good Luck Will !! A great kid, with a bright future !!

  • Betty Begg
    August 22, 2012 - 19:58

    What a mature young man Will is . He has set a example not only for other young people but also others living with Diabetes . Will is indeed an example and would make a great spoke person for Diabetes . I'm sure he will make some long lasting friendships on this trip to Europe . Behind great kids is great parents so wishing all the best to this nice family .

  • Patti Devine
    August 21, 2012 - 22:24

    Thanks to Jason for writing this excellent piece; it really captures Will and the journey our family has taken over the last 4 years. David and I are very proud of Will and how he has adjusted to life with diabetes.

    • Tommy
      August 21, 2012 - 23:10

      Had Will in my group this summer at Andrews Hockey camps and he was a pleasure to coach and have in the group. He was a total professional and in complete control of the situation. So cool to hear that you are heading to Europe. Good luck and have a ton of fun.