Sunday, April 24, 2011

Nick Hopkins: A Very Normal Young Man

Nick Hopkins, left, hiking in the Smoky Mountains.  Spencer Schmitt, his friend, right.

 To donate to find a cure for Nick and all other type-1 diabetics, please click HERE!

 Trying to put together a blog about people who happen to be diabetic has turned out to be fun.  Today, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Nick Hopkins, an eighth grader at Loveland Middle School, a student in the Loveland City Schools all his life.

A pattern seems to be emerging in such discussions; and from the start, when talking to Nick, the pattern is clear.  That is:  People who are type-1 diabetics have a sense of who they are and what really matters.  Since they're stuck dealing with a disease every day--and "stuck" is the word--they don't let little problems ruin their day.

Nick has been diabetic since he was six years old, but his dad Mark told me "I can't even remember the last time I heard him complain."  Nick was at Golden Corral one night with his family and Connie, his mother, noticed her son was drinking a lot and having to go to the bathroom repeatedly.  If you have a diabetic in the know the signs.

It's off to the hospital!

Eight years later, Nick doesn't remember what it's like NOT to be diabetic.  It's just part of who he is.  And who is he?  Nick is an animal lover, for starters.  He has three dogs, Peanuts, Buddy and Ruthie (shown at left), and a bird named Pipi.  He has an older brother, Austin, and although they sometimes wrestle, the two boys almost always get along.  "He looks out for me," is the way Nick sums up their relationship.

Wait???  Is this guy actually a teenage boy?  Nick sounds too normal!  (And I say that fondly, as a former teenage boy.) 

It only gets "stranger" the longer you talk to this young man.  Nick gets along great with his parents and he and his dad (who both feel they are a lot alike) go out and play golf whenever they can.  In first grade he remembers getting an award for "most improved reader" and he's been mostly an honor roll student since fifth grade.  Right now, he's reading a series of books called Fable Haven, about two kids and magical animals.  I asked him if he normally likes school and he said he's had a lot of good teachers.  One he liked, was Mr. Sievering, for eighth grade Language Arts.

Sometimes we hear so much about goofy celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen, we forget how many good people are out there, and Nick is one.  You get the strongest possible impression from talking to him that he's going to be fine in the future, diabetes or not.  Right now he likes to rollerblade and hang out with friends, Jake Hilliker and Spencer Schmitt, being two of his best buddies; but if there are any cute ladies in his life he isn't saying.  Nick likes to be outside, play with his dogs, talk to his bird, and consider his future. 

Right now, he's suffering from asthma/allergic reaction which makes him insulin resistant at school--where his blood sugar always spikes.  This has meant he must spend most of his time at home with a tutor and working with mom, who can handle the math.  Environmental experts have failed to pinpoint the problem.  Nick would like to go back to school this year; but if that doesn't work, he has already shadowed his brother twice at Loveland High School and had no allergic reactions.

Talking to mom, you know right away, how much she loves her son; and dad sums it up nicely, once telling a doctor he was ready to do whatever it took to help his son:  "If you want us to drive him to the moon, we will," was how he put it.  I asked dad, finally, what would you say to a family that had just received a diagnosis of type-1 diabetes for a loved one.  "It's going to be okay," he said he tell them.  "The first six months are going to be terrible.  You don't know what you are going to do.  You're going to be okay [though] and so is your kid."

That's Nick, from what I can tell.  Diabetic for six years--but still okay (and, really, more than okay).

I asked him what he would do if they ever cured diabetes.  He said he'd be excited, "because my mom says she'll give me $1,000" and "that would be fun."  Then he turned serious and said, it would be great, "no more shots, no finger pricks, no infusion sites."

Right now, Nick is using a pump and a continuous glucose monitor, which checks his blood more than 200 times every day, and this gives him superior control, and protects his overall health.  Nick expects to see a cure in his lifetime and let's hope he's right.

                                                    Pipi (shown right)

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