T1D Swimming Champs
Swimming the length of a pool can be a daunting task for just about anybody. Try being a 6-year-old, summoning the courage and strength to swim as many as 20 laps a day. Anyone who is a swimmer knows that excelling at the sport requires strength, stamina but more than anything, discipline. When you think of it this way, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that our two kids with type 1 diabetes (T1Ds): Kendall Layous (age 6) and Chase Paterson (age 6) have both found success in the sport. When I say “our,” I mean our daughter and our best friend’s son. We connected with Chase’s parents immediately with an analogous attitude of positivity toward the disease. We’ve also found that it certainly doesn’t hold them back.
Kendall, who was diagnosed at age 2, and Chase, who was diagnosed just before his 6th birthday are supported by like-minded families, who have chosen to treat the diagnosis with positivity and with the general notion that there is nothing that a person with T1D can’t do. Both Kendall and Chase are very active—Kendall splits her time between school, soccer, softball and gymnastics, while Chase balances baseball, basketball, flag football and soccer. However, if you stopped to ask them which one is their favorite, both wouldn’t hesitate to tell you that they love swimming the best.
At first thought, swimming might seem like a terrible sport for someone trying to manage their diabetes. How does one mix water with Dexcoms, pumps and plummeting blood sugars? Surprisingly for Kendall and Chase, the daily act of swim practice has actually helped to regulate their blood sugars. Sure there are difficulties, such as meet times where nerves and adrenaline can cause blood sugar to spike or drop, but in the summer months where swimming is in season, the occurrences of highs are significantly and quite notably less frequent. We do our best to keep their blood sugars in range, but the truth is, they always race hard regardless of their numbers.
Kendall wears an Animus Ping insulin pump, which she unplugs while she is at swim practice and during her races. During swim meets she gets plugged in between races to keep the insulin levels as steady as possible. She also wears a Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) and because she spends so much time in the water, she wraps her CGM on her bicep with sports tape so that it will stay in place. Kendall’s parents carry her Dexcom receiver around the pool during meets which grants real-time visibility to her numbers, even when she is with her friends playing in a tent or lined up behind the blocks ready to race.
Chase wears an OmniPod insulin pump which gives him the ability to receive continuous insulin, even during practice and meet times. With the OmniPod, the tubeless functionality allows Chase to wear it in optimal places such as the back of his arm, or beneath his swim suit on his lower back. Just like Kendall, Chase wraps his Pod with waterproof sports tape to make sure it stays on tight even when he has been swimming for hours on end. Chase checks his blood sugar between events at swim meets, as well as before and after practice. He has learned to pay special attention to the foods that he eats before a race to make sure he keeps his numbers as level as possible.
Chase and Kendall swim for the Sycamore Stingrays Swim Team in Danville, CA. It is a 230 swimmer swim team with kids ages 4-18 within Contra Costa County, which has about 55 swim teams and over 10,000 swimmers. One of the biggest accomplishments a swimmer in our area can achieve is to qualify for the Contra Costa County Swim Championship Meet. To qualify, a swimmer must post a time faster than certain time thresholds to earn an invitation to participate in this special meet.
The County Meet is one of the most prestigious recreational swim meets in the U.S. and has been running for 56 years; it has become a platform in which the best of the best compete. Although winning a meet as a team is important, swimming remains an individual sport. To any swimmer in our area, qualifying for “County” is the ultimate accomplishment and for the kids, and the chance to wear a gold cap (signifying yourself as a County qualifier) is more exciting than a blue ribbon.
The similarities of Chase and Kendall’s success are astounding. On our swim team, Chase and Kendall are the only kids with type 1. They are both 6 years old. They are one of very few in the entire league who have made the County time to qualify for the special County meet. They even both qualified in backstroke! In a time where people tend to treat diabetes like a disease without hope, we choose to celebrate their success.
Just one look at Chase and Kendall in their gold caps helps to break stigmas tied to diabetes, and these little guys with their 6-year-old hearts don’t even realize that their actions are teaching everyone around them that someone with T1D is perfectly capable of living a normal life, and quite honestly excelling in it! Like Dory says in the movie, Finding Dory, “Just keep swimming!” See you on the pool deck!
Two Families, One Outlook
Shonda and Brad Layous live in Danville, California with daughters—Addison (8) and Kendall (6). Kendall was diagnosed with type 1 just two days after her 2nd birthday. The Layous Family is very active has participated in the JDRF Walk for five years and Brad and Shonda both hold Board positions.
Lindsay and Bryan Paterson also live in Danville, California with their three children—Chase (6 ) McKenna ( 5 ) and Samantha ( 2 ). The Paterson family relocated to the Bay Area from Southern California last August. As the moving vans were pulling out of their driveway, Chase was showing symptoms so severe that he was rushed to Children’s Hospital Oakland only to learn of this type 1 diabetes diagnosis.
Want to learn more about diabetes management while swimming? Read Swimming on Insulin by Hannah Vester