If you would like to donate to help find a cure for Alyssa and Ben and all the other type-1 diabetics please click HERE! (This will take you to my fund-raising page. Click on "donate to this event." Then click "Biking and Painting for Diabetes."
Tonight I had the pleasure of talking to Ms. Alyssa Heal. Alyssa sounds on the phone like she looks in this photo (left) with her dad John. She sounds cheerful.
Her dad says she's cheerful. So does her grandmother. And Alyssa admits she is cheerful. Talking to her turns out to be my pleasure.
Ms. Heal is 13-years old, a 7th grader at Loveland Middle School, a very strong student, a cheerleader, both competitively and next year for the school, and a type-1 diabetic.
But Alyssa doesn't let the disease define her, just as her dad says: "If you met Alyssa, you’d never know she was diabetic (unless you saw her insulin pump)."
Alyssa has never met me when she gets on the phone to answer my questions; but there's a smile in her voice, just like the smile you see at right. I have the same impression after I talk to her I had after talking to Noelle Fletcher: "This young lady has her act together."
Alyssa tells me about herself. This year her favorite teacher is Ms. Schreck for science. "She seems to have everything organized, which makes it easier for me to understand," is how the young lady explains it. Alyssa isn't bragging when she says this: but admits she has a 102 average in science.
Alyssa has always wanted to be a teacher. In second grade she and a cousin used to play school; but Alyssa was serious. She presented mock lessons to neighborhood kids, used a computer to make attendance sheets and even letters "signed" by parents and set up learning centers for her "students" to use. (Later, one of her grade school teachers used some of her learning center ideas in her own class. How cool is that!)
What else does Ms. Heal reveal in conversation? She laughs a little when I ask her about boys but says she hasn't got her eye on anyone. She played soccer for six years and she's been cheering for one. She doesn't "like going to school," she laughs a little, "but I want to get into a good college and I don't want to be poor." So she studies and works hard and adds that she'd still want to learn even if she didn't have to go to school. Her only real problem is that she doesn't like getting up early.
She likes going to Kings Island, enjoys movies and reading Harry Potter (and she's anxious to see the next movie in the series this summer). She has two dogs, a bunny, and "a really fuzzy cat." In fac,there isn't anything she doesn't like. So I ask if she has any weaknesses or bad habits. She thinks a moment, gives a little laugh again, and says, "Well....I love candy and I have to pull myself away." Dad adds that she loves chocolate. "It's her kryptonite."
Finally, we turn to diabetes. "It seems like if you weren't a diabetic, your life would be great," I say; and she agrees. She remembers the day she found out: "I wasn't scared. I was kind of in shock. I didn't think it could happen to me. I'd see commercials about these bad diseases, and think 'That would really stink,' but diabetes was for old people." She says she might have cried once but she doesn't think she ever did. "You get used to it," she says with a maturity beyond her thirteen years. "You have to. It's not going away."
I ask her at last, what she might say to a classmate who turned up with type-1 diabetes next year. At first, she says, "You're on your own buddy." Then Alyssa becomes serious. "No...really...I'd say don't freak out. It seems like a habit to me now. You'll get used to it. It get's easier." So that's what Alyssa has done. She gets used to it. She deals. She has the pump and that helps. Her mom is good tracking carbs and insulin ratios, her dad helps her change her sites, because she doesn't like to and wants to look away. But Alyssa stays upbeat and deals with all the problems and worries with a poise unusual in someone her age.
It stinks being a diabetic. Alyssa knows that. My daughter Emily knows it. Matt Westendorf, at Princeton Jr. High knows it and so does Tom Youkilis, who lives down the street from me in Glendale. So do 30,000 new type-1 diabetics every year. But It's obvious when you talk Alyssa--just one of those diabetics--that she has a positive outlook today and a positive outlook about the future. So she keeps moving foward, cheerful and cheering.
I taught in Loveland a long time and worked with more than five thousand teens (including Alyssa's dad and aunts Jackie and Joanna).
I can often sense how kids are going to do in the future and I'm going to make a bold prediction: I think Alyssa Heal is going to be one heck of a teacher.