Saturday, March 26, 2011

Matt Westendorf: A Hiking, Biking, Kayaking Fellow

Matt and his dad ponder life.

Matt doesn't let a little problem like type-1 stop him.

Matt has been know to go hiking in the Smoky

To donate to find a cure for Matt please click HERE!

Matt Westendorf is a man in search of a good book.  When I talked to him recently he said he was reading Dante's Divine Comedy, a work I can't say I've tackled yet.  So, it's clear pretty quick that Matt, 17, is a sharp guy.  His parents agree.

Dad, Jim, jokes that he can't stand the music Matt listens to, including Against Me and the New Zealand group Living End, but you can tell there's more humor in their banter than anything.  Matt hates talk radio, which his dad prefers, but both can agree they like the sound of Flogging Molly.

Matt has been diabetic since age 3, and surprisingly feels "lucky" because this is all he's ever known.  He says it became "second nature" to have to deal with the disease and he has never reallhy known any other situation.  In other words:  he takes it in stride.  Debbie, his mom, is a RN and she "just knew" when he began showing symptoms of the disease.  She asked to borrow a testing kit at work one day and brought it home; but even before she tested his blood she just knew.  When the test proved positive she changed his diaper, went down to the basement a moment, "and had a good cry."

Unfortunately, Debbie's family has long experience with type-1 diabetes.  Her mother was diagnosed at 25, in the days before pumps and easier blood testing, and still battled the disease sucessfully for nearly four decades.  Another relative currently suffers from complications:  loss of feeling in legs, poor digestion, and so hardly eats.  In other words, we still need a CURE.  The good news is that treatment continues to improve.  Debbie convinced her mother to get her first glucose meter in 1986.  Today diabetics have much better care options all around.

Matt deal with diabetes well.  He might get irritated once in awhile having to check carbs when he wants a bowl of cereal, but who can blame him?  And if he wants to drink a malt, he checks his blood, and if his blood sugar is high, he jumps on his bike and rides for half an hour before coming back and having that malt.

Now a junior at Princeton High School, youn Mr. Westendorf hopes to go to college, maybe OSU or Wright State, to study nursing or become a nurse-practitioner or a physician.  Mom says he'll do well in the medical profession.  He's "empathetic" and "smart" and "such an upbeat person," he'll be good working with people no matter what career he ultimately chooses.  Matt was a counselor for diabetic kids at Camp Korelitz last summer; his mom says "he just lit up" from the experience.  I asked Matt what he loved most about the camp.  "Geez, everything," he responded, "the people, the atmosphere, just the fact I got to go to camp.  For one week everyone is the same, just like you, and everybody is checking up on everybody."  Matt worked with 11-year-olds and loved the experience, but admits he was "dead tired at the end of the week."

So a career in teaching may be out.

Otherwise, Matt is your normal, average teen:  he likes rock music and plays the flute.  Has kayaked in white water and hiked in the Smokie Mountains, too.  (Someday he hopes to go back packing in Europe and see Stonehenge.)  He gets good mileage out of both his Xbox and his mountain bike.  You don't know where he's going to end up on that bike in in ten or twenty-five years.  Still, you get the idea he's going somewhere good.

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