Diabetes not slowing down softball player

Photos by Marty Gordon
10-year-old Jamie Deremer is a Babe Ruth girl softball player who is fighting type 1 Diabetes.

Marty Gordon

Jamie Deremer is a normal youngster who loves to play sports, especially Babe Ruth softball, but she’s not your typical 10-year-old.

She wears an insulin pump at all times. During a recent contest at Kipps Elementary School in Blacksburg, she had to stop and give herself a shot to fight light-headedness.

This is something Deremer has to be careful of since she has type 1 diabetes diagnosed when she was seven years old.

In type 1 diabetes, which can occur at any age, the pancreas does not make insulin. Without insulin, too much sugar stays in the individual’s blood and cannot get into the cells to be used for energy.

Her mother, Stacy, carries a small pack of items to every game, things that will help the girl if and when her sugar go up or down.

“It’s just something we have to do for her with type 1 diabetes,” she said.

Initially, the family never suspected their child had the disease.

“She had a little cough and I thought she had strep throat. At the doctor’s appointment, she had a high blood sugar level, so we went right to the hospital,” Stacy said.

Children with type 1, like Jamie, may need to take insulin and the level may be controlled through diet and proper exercise.

Her mother admits there have been some major changes in the lives of every member of the family including their overall diet.

“When a child or adult is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the whole family is diagnosed. We do family meal planning, and this can be difficult when playing sports when games and practice are at different times. We are try to stay more on a schedule so she eats, goes to bed and wakes up at the same time. Schedules are very important,” she said.

According to the American Diabetes Association, last year 30.3 million Americans had diabetes, and approximately 1.25 million children and adults reported having the type 1 form.

Nearly 200,000 Americans younger than 20 have been diagnosed with diabetes, around 18,000 with type 1.

Jamie Deremer loves playing behind the plate for the Floyd County Babe Ruth girls’ softball team. In recent action against Blacksburg, she readies for the upcoming pitch.

“Jamie is on an insulin pump and has done very well. She also has a constant glucose monitor that gives her a little more independence. We can see her blood sugar levels from wherever we are and she can manage a high or low blood-sugar level as needed,” Stacy said.

While the illness has affected the Copper Hill, Virginia, girl both physically and emotionally, she is not slowing down, especially when it comes to softball.

She informs umpires and coaches from other teams that she is wearing an insulin pump and might be affected by a change in her blood sugar.

“I was on long-acting and short-acting insulin when I came home from the hospital. In June of 2016, I got my pump. I love it. My A1C (a measure of average levels of blood glucose) was a little high, but now I’m in single digits and I am doing well. But it gets a little complicated when I play sports, get sick, or just have a cold,” Deremer said.

The youngster called her first diagnosis “scary.”

“I had to learn lots of new words, count carbs, get shots and my family and I had to find our new normal. I was also the only type one diabetic in my school. I felt like I was the only one dealing with this disease. With the support from my family and going to the support group in Roanoke, I learned how to advocate for myself and educate others.”

She is taking her effort all the way to Washington, D.C., having sent a recent video message to legislators from the Virginia.

Deremer says Congress needs to be involved in the type 1 issue because insurance companies need to be regulated and have laws. An allergic reaction to a certain type of medicine limited her access, forcing her mother to spend hours on the phone to make sure she had the right insulin.

“I am only a kid, but I know that it is not right for an insurance company to tell me “no I can’t have the insulin that keeps me from being sick”. I hope I can make a difference,” she said.

Deremer has been selected by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the leading global organization funding type 1 diabetes research, to join a delegation of youth advocates in Washington, D.C. this summer at the JDRF 2019 Children’s Congress from July 8-10.

The delegates will be lobbying their members of Congress to remind them of the vital need to continue supporting type 1 diabetes research that could reduce the burden of this disease and ultimately find a cure.

The children—ages 4 to 17, representing all 50 states—will participate in a number of activities on the Hill, including a Congressional Committee hearing to share personal testimonies that highlight the challenges of living with the disease and the need for continued funding for research projects such as the Special Diabetes Program (SDP).

Joining the U.S. Delegates will be five International Delegates traveling from Australia, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Together, the JDRF Youth Delegates will convey a clear message to the Federal Government that T1D is a global problem that requires a global effort.

“Every day these children and their parents face the burden of type one diabetes and by sharing their stories they become powerful advocates in the fight to end this disease,” said Charlotte Kidd with JDRF. “The Delegates are a representation of millions of other families, including mine, who need the support of the government. Children’s Congress gives the T1D youth community a unified voice in front of Congress and a way to urge our government leaders to continue supporting research.”

In addition to speaking about her illness, Deremer has very active in her community, holding both a walk and motorcycle poker run to raise money for juvenile diabetes research.

“Jamie’s Ride” is being held today, Saturday, June 8 and starts at the Roanoke Moose Lodge. All money raised goes to the JDRF.

A Team Jamie Girl Family Walk has been held annually for the past three years.

Deremer also plays volleyball and basketball, and even participated in flag football last year.

“Nothing slows her down, and we are glad it doesn’t,” her mother said. “The sky’s the limit. She is a very smart, driven, and competitive little girl. I can’t wait to what see what comes her way.”

Jamie’s motto for life is ‘Be Brave Everyday”. This message is on her medical bracelet.