OAKLAND By doctors’ accounts, Luke Rosser was so sick he should have been in a coma; most people in his severe condition would have been unable to walk into the emergency room on that February day. While doctors were running tests to determine what was wrong with him, his mother was worrying that he had the flu and that she should have kept him from competing in the swim meet.
But it was Luke’s athleticism that actually saved his life, Meredith Rosser said.
Luke was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. His blood glucose sugar was higher than 1,400 — normal is around 100 — and his blood was at acidic levels when he arrived at the hospital.
This came as a shock to the Oakland family, because there is no history of type 1 diabetes — or any autoimmune disease — in Meredith or Steve Rosser’s families.
However, it didn’t stop Luke from competing in swim meets and triathlons — something he has done for about five years. He just has to take extra precautions, such as checking his blood sugar before and after his races and sometimes even giving himself injections during a race.
“Luke has certainly embraced the challenge of monitoring his diagnosis during his training,” said Bill Kuminka, Luke’s swim coach at the National Training Center in Clermont. “His ability to transition into the maintenance of the diabetes, make the necessary modifications in his lifestyle and diet and continue to train and excel in his sport has been very inspirational. It’s a great story about how the resilience of a young man and the benefits of nutrition and exercise can be used to live a healthy lifestyle in spite of a diagnosis such as diabetes.”
In August, Luke placed eighth in his age group, and 34th out of 291 overall, at the USA Triathlon Youth and Junior 2015 Championship held in Ohio. He is determined to show there are no limits when living with type 1 diabetes, and he hopes to reach the No. 1 spot next year.
Meredith Rosser home-schools her three children, Luke, Jack, 11, and Andrew, 16, and has always made sure they had plenty of physical activities to balance the education they received.
After Luke received his diagnosis, he said he wanted to quit racing because he felt embarrassed and isolated — until he met Chris Clark, the first type 1 diabetic to finish the Ultraman Triathlon. That meeting changed Luke’s outlook, and this week he shared his story with another home-school group.
His new attitude is this: “We’re just going to overcome this.”
Athleticism saved Luke’s life, and the family is trying to share his story and the benefits of staying active.
“I don’t know where we would be if he wasn’t active,” Meredith Rosser said. “A lot of kids don’t have any level of activity, and the school system is taking P.E. out of the schools.”
The family’s plan is two-fold: Bring a physical-education curriculum back to all schools and make blood-sugar testing mandatory at every child’s well and sick visits with the pediatrician.
“It’s a single finger-prick test,” Meredith Rosser said. “If they do this at well visits, then there’s a pattern. … It should be routine to test the blood sugar.”
Earlier this month, North Carolina legislators passed Reegan’s Rule, a bill promoting diabetes screening for infants and toddlers, following 16-month-old Reegan Karice Oxendine’s death from undiagnosed type 1 diabetes.
“We’re not going to stop until we get what we want implemented in the United States,” Meredith Rosser said. Their first plan of action is lobbying in Lake and Orange counties.
“Everyone talks about, ‘Be the change,’” she said. “We want to be that change. We want to be the positive change. We want to change legislation and what’s happening in the health care system.”
WALKING FOR AWARENESS
November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and the Rossers are participating in the upcoming 2015 Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes, the American Diabetes Association’s signature event. It starts at 8 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, at Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake, 3401 S. Hiawassee Road, Orlando.
This year’s theme is superheroes, and anyone wanting to participate with Team Luke for T1D or to make a donation can contact Meredith Rosser at [email protected].
Meredith Rosser stressed the event is not a race but rather a simple a two-mile walk to spread awareness of diabetes.
“Our platform is simple — just get out and be active,” she said.
Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].