Dirty Hands | Softball is For Girls

She missed a ball. No big deal, right?

The thing is she didn’t just miss a ball, she totally missed it- like she didn’t even see it missed it, like her eyes were closed, missed it. And then another.

When a shortstop with a .900 fielding percentage misses routine balls, you worry.

You worry, right?

Oh well. Everyone has a bad day. Except she also struck out. Like didn’t even come close to making contact. Like swinging before the ball even got close.

It’s her blood sugar. It has to be. Everyone as bad days, but when the bad days or the bad play just seems out of character and your kid is a type 1, you immediately go to the blood sugar. When you are a T1D mom, you go to the blood sugar. Not as an excuse, because God knows you’d rather any excuse but THIS, but because that feeling hits you that something just isn’t right with your kid.

And then you make the walk. The walk to the dugout. She ignores you when you get there because she knows you’re going to ask. You ask her to check her blood sugar. She gives you that look. The look that says it was just a bad inning, my blood sugar is fine – now go away! 

“I will after this inning, my hands are dirty right now and it won’t be accurate.”

Okay, maybe its not the blood sugar. I mean, nobody is perfect, right? Plus, She did everything right today. She ate the right pre-game foods, is staying hydrated. But it’s hot. Just so damn hot. It’s 3pm in the afternoon and she’s been playing on and off for hours. Maybe it was just a bad inning.

Maybe. And just like that, your mind drifts to prayer. 

Then another ball. Missed. Your heart dies a little right there in your seat. 

This time the walk is to the dugout to speak with the coach. “Will you have her check her blood sugar?” Of course he will because he is on your side, and you feel like with one question you just demolished your child.

All season long, there have been no issues. The LAST thing that she wants is to be taken out of a game because of her blood sugar. She doesn’t want to be different, or weak, or that kid who is fragile because of this stupid disease. That’s what she fights so hard against. 

Her entire life as an athlete is making sure that her blood sugar doesn’t interfere with her being an athlete. Pushing the limits.  She does everything right. 

How can her body defy her? It isn’t fair. Just so unfair. These are children! 

As she comes in off the field, me standing behind the dugout, waiting for her to check her blood sugar, her face looks sober. She tries to pretend I am not there. I motion for her to check. And she pulls out her little black sack with haste and frustration.

Mom, my hands are too dirty to check, it won’t be right,” she says.

Check it anyways, I say – her still pretending I am not there. It feels like she is in trouble, but she isn’t in trouble. It feels mean to stand there behind the dugout forcing her to check. She’s 14. But she has a warriors heart and I know she won’t just stop playing on her own. She’s determined. 

Her hesitation, her dirty hands, just an excuse to not confirm what I know is already true.

Her dirty hands, so covered with red clay that I can see the thousands of prick holes in the tips of her fingers from years of checking her blood sugar, and my stomach turns and my heart aches.

Her dirty little filthy stained hands that never cease to amaze me.

When I watch her play her sports and be an athlete, I can almost forget that she is a type 1 diabetic. If I don’t see the tubing from her pump, I could almost forget…

She looks back at me, throws her meter back in her batbag, says 261, grabs her glove and disappears s back out to her spot at shortstop to dirty up her hands some more. In this moment she resents me.

I take my seat, and my eyes are locked in on her. I can tell by how she is moving,that something is not right. This time I walk to the dugout and check the meter myself, I know my child.

Her last check was 561. She lied to me to stay in the game.

But I know, and she knows…that at 561 she doesn’t see well.

That her heart beat is rapid.

That she gets hot – hotter than the already 98 humid degrees, and it makes her stomach hurt.

That she doesn’t feel well. I know that at 561 she should not be exerting herself anymore, that adrenaline causes more of a rush as her organs dump glucose. 

I know that at 561 we are treading in dangerous territory, and she knows it too. But she fights so damn hard to stay in the game. To stay in for her teammates. To not let ‘this’ make her different, or make her have to stop doing life her way. To keep her hands dirty.

“This.” This is type 1 diabetes. 

This time I tell the coach to take her out of the game, right then and right there – no please, no explanation. And, of course, he does.

I am not sure if it relief or irritation that she feels. “My hands are just dirty mom, its probably not right mom – this game is almost over, I will wash my hands afterwards and check it again, ok.” 

But she knows. And I know.

This affliction is unpredictable. It attacks at random times. It makes every day of their lives and the lives of those love them, unpredictable. You sigh in relief when they wake up in the morning, and you worry about them while they sleep.

And yet they fight. They fight silently. While other kids are whining about a headache, or a twisted ankle, while other kids WANT to sit out practice or gamesbecause its hot – these T1D warriors FIGHT like no one else.

After clean hands, a site change, some cool air, a healthy snack, some insulin and a couple hours later, her blood sugar is still running high, but not so high that she cannot play, or cannot see well.

She’s back in the game. And her hands, with the thousands of little pin prick holes are covered in dirt again….just the way she likes it! 

For Every Type 1 Athlete (Non Sport Specific)

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  1. Mary cissel on March 16, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    We have been there. My daughter has swam and played lacrosse year round for all 10 years since her diagnosis. How many call, texts. An screaming from the pool deck or across the field have their been to check bs! From lows in the 20’s to over 600 after a sprint. She continued to swim or play her best! So tough, so brave, so sad that others don’t know or understand. But her dream came true and she has been recruited to play d1 lacrosse at a PAC 12 team. Scares the hell out of me cause we are 45 hrs. Away. But will conthnue on as we have for 10 years. Day by day. Moment by moment. An lots of technology and prayers!! Thank you for the article so others will maybe understand.

  2. Mike on March 16, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    Hi I’ve been a diabetic for a long time a pump with a monitor will work wonders look into it if your health care provider covers most of it my daughter is 13 always concerned about her being diabetic she injured her back herniated 3 disks and can no longer play didn’t see that coming

  3. Deanna on March 19, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    Thank you for sharing, my daughter is 10, a pitcher in travel ball and a T1D. It’s like I wrote this article myself. It makes me feel less alone, thank you!

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