Joel and the one that didn't get away.
Joel gets a lift from a friend.
To donate to find a cure for Joel please click HERE!
Joel McElfrish is a funny guy. I know that, because I still remember his sense of humor from the time he "served" in my history class back in seventh grade. Joel has been a type-1 diabetic since April 4, 2005, when he was in eighth grade, a date he never forgets because it was the same day North Carolina won the NCAA men's basketball championship .
Joel is probably lucky he remembers anything from that period. When he started showing symptoms his mom and dad thought he had mononucelosis. He was sleeping 18-20 hours a day and lost twenty pounds. His mom realized something was up when his vision blurred so badly he couldn't read the guide on the TV. The final clue came when Joel says he drank "a whole Culligan five-gallon water cooler" worth of fluid in just a few hours.
Like my daughter, Emily, Joel was soon being rushed to to Children's Hospital, but he was in much worse shape, with a blood sugar of 1088, and remained there for two weeks. "The best hospital in the world," he says of his experience at Children's. The Viall family would agree.
Joel admits he "cried like a baby" when he found out he was diabetic. Like most diabetics, he just doesn't complain. "If I don't give a shot in front of my friends, they don't know I'm a diabetic, because I never say," he told me recently. In fact, Joel says he "leads a life that is 99% normal." "You can pretty much do anything you want," he added, and as a bonus noted that"being diabetic made me grow up a lot faster."
So what is your "typical" type-1 diabetic like? Not typical, really. On Joel's bucket list, he he wants to hunt bear in Saskatchewan. He has been an avid bow hunter (I should have asked him if he'd hunt bear with a bow!!) and fisherman since age 9, and doesn't let low blood sugars interfere with his hobbies or his daily life. He does admit he went low once when sitting up in a tree stand and it was a little hard to climb down, but again, when he tells me the story over the phone, he doesn't complain.
It's just what it is. Your diabetic and it isn't going away. So we all hope for a cure and Joel keeps giving himself the shots and takes care of what he can.
Joel is a counselor at Camp Korelitz one week every summer, for five years now, where he works with other counselors and campers who are type-1 diabetics. He calls that "his favorite time of the year." Since graduating from Scarlett Oaks he has worked in construction and recently enrolled in a welding certification course, with hopes of being an aircraft welder at GE some day.
The only time diabetes has stopped Joel so far was when he had to give up his dream of joining the United States Marines.
Other than that: he's pretty much your typical young man, just funnier than most.