Source: Central Jersey.com
Hopewell resident Sam DiGaetano was nine when he got the flu, but he didn’t expect it to evolve into a chronic illness.
For unknown reasons,the flu attacked his pancreas, forcing it to stop producing insulin. Two years later, DiGaetano was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
DiGaetano spoke as an ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) Golf and Tennis Classic at Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club along with fellow Type 1 diabetic 17-year-old Joshua Engler of Park Ridge.
JDRF’s goal, DiGaetano says, is to “turn Type 1 into type none.”
This is DiGaetano’s first full year as a member of JDRF’s Young Leadership Committee (YLC), which is a group of “self-starting, enthusiastic young professionals who are interested in networking, advocacy, fundraising and spreading awareness of JDRF’s mission,” according to JDRF website.
“The biggest (adjustment) was taking insulin shots — no one wants to have to use needles all day,” he said. “When I was a kid, it was tough for me. We had to count fats, we had to count proteins to to adjust for blood sugar correction, so it’s definitely hard to learn that. Now, it’s like there’s a calculator in my head.”
He began to take golf seriously in middle school and participated in competitions, later winning three state championships when playing for the Hopewell Valley Central High School golf team and went on to play Division I golf at Rider University.
For DiGaetano, there are many parallels between golf and having diabetes. “Calculating what shot you’re going to hit is a lot like dosing for blood sugar and dosing for a meal,” he said. “It’s a numbers game, much like golf is.”
“I’m at that point where it’s nice to have a community where they understand what we’re all going through, and that’s what JDRF does for me.”
DiGaetano offered advice to those recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes — take it day by day.
“There’s no set guidelines as to how a Type 1 diabetic should and shouldn’t live their life, aside from the fact you need to be on top of it,” he said. “Just stay positive and do your best to stay healthy. It can be frustrating to check your blood sugar in public, but you got to take the time and realize it’s going to make you stronger.”
“It can be a struggle living with it,” DiGaetano says. “It’s a portion of life we have to take into account at all times. But it’s the best chronic illness I could have, because I’m able to live a full life.”
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), founded in 1970, is a non-profit organization that has donated $2 billion to Type 1 diabetes research. Click to visit the Web sites of their North Jersey and South Jersey chapters.