Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Physicist, Jazz Piano Player, Type-1 Diabetic: Adam Kavka

Adam Kavka and Shelby Copenhaver (she's also a cool former student).

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

Adam Kavka would tell you he's "a pretty typical college student," and he is, except that he hopes to pursue a PhD. in physics someday and says his dream job would be to work on the CERN partical accelerator in Switzerland. 

I first met Adam when he was in seventh grade and in my American history class. It was obvious even then that he was going to be a success in the future. Adam is gifted in mathematics, hard working, and humble about his talents, always funny and polite. 

That year I missed three days of work when my daughter Emily, 14, was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes and had to spend the time at Children's Hospital. I was tired and a little scared the day I came back to school, because our family didn't know what to expect. Adam waited until after class and then quietly approached my desk. "If you have any questions about diabetes, I'd be happy to talk," he said.

I was deeply touched by Adam's concern, his kindness and his wisdom, at 13, to approach someone four times his age and offer solace. Suddenly, I felt better, knowing that someone so young could face up to this unfortunate situation so bravely.

And I have seen the same courage from many other diabetic kids since.

Adam, himself, was first diagnosed in sixth grade. His father, John, happened to read a story about a Pittsburgh Steelers player who had type-1 diabetes. A few days later he noticed Adam was struggling in one of his soccer games. "You just didn't seem to have much energy," he told his son when he came off the field at the end of the contest. Adam admitted he had been tired and thirsty most of the game.

Dad knew then:  lack of energy, having to go to the bathroom contantly, unexplained drop in weight in recent days. Adam might be diabetic.

Once the diagnosis was confirmed the Kavka family decided to make the best of the situation. Patty, Adam's mom, Becky, his sister (also a fantastic former student) and dad made it their mission to help Adam any way they could. "We were very accepting," Mr. Kavka remembers today, "we had a health problem, and we had to deal with it the best we could." 

One of their few low moments came the first time they sent Adam out on Halloween after his condition was diagnosed. "I have a terrible feeling that Adam will be out there, and he'll fall behind his friends, and be laying there alone in the dark,"  mom told dad. Adam made his rounds just fine and has been handling his situation with success ever since. You know you can't let down, because the health ramifications can be great, but his a1c counts are almost always under 7.0, which is like getting an A+ if you're a type-1 diabetic. Adam is now on the pump, and like our Emily has seen real improvements in care options available in the last few years. JDRF funding has been instrumental to new research.

Adam really isn't a "diabetic." It's unfair to classify him in just that way. He's a freshman at Ohio State, with the usual freshman concerns. He's on the debate team and lives in an honors dorm. He still plays the piano, as he did in the jazz band at Loveland Middle School and Loveland High. He says he works a lot (no doubt true), has a good time, and doesn't worry because "worrying doesn't get you anywhere." Dad says, "He's a unique individual."

That he is.

If worrying doesn't get you anywhere talent and effort do and I believe Dr. Kavka is going to be running that partical accelerator someday.

I also predict they're going to cure this disease.

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