Hunter Norment perseveres through Type 1 diabetes

Since he was only 10-years-old, Hunter Norment has faced the challenges of Type I diabetes head on. The Pleasanton High School sophomore demonstrates how he won’t let illness stop him– he is active in football, baseball, FFA and 4-H and recently joined powerlifting.

Type 1 diabetes vs. Type 2 diabetes

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with type 1 diabetes, your body cannot make insulin, so you need to take insulin every day. Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2 diabetes; about 5 percent of the people who have diabetes have type 1. 

“If he doesn’t take his insulin, he can die,” said his mother, Debbie Norment.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation also explains that Type 1 diabetes is also considered an auto-immune disease because it occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, called beta cells. While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing you can do to prevent it, and nothing currently you can do to get rid of it.

With type 2 diabetes, your body cannot properly use insulin (a hormone that helps glucose get into the cells of the body). You can get type 2 diabetes at any age, but you are at higher risk if you are older, overweight, have a family history of diabetes, are not physically active, or are a woman who had gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant).

The early years

 

Hunter and his parents, Debbie and Darold Norment of Pleasanton, remember the day that he was diagnosed– Feb. 26, 2012. A week before that, Hunter had been showing heifers and steers at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo and wasn’t feeling well. He missed a week of school and at first they thought it was just from being tired.

“He was in his bedroom complaining of being hot and thirsty and couldn’t get enough to drink. He came out of his room crying, saying that he couldn’t focus on his homework. I had a gut feeling that something was wrong, so I told my husband I was going to get those ketone strips that show sugar in your urine,” said Debbie. “It turned jet black before he could even hand it to me.”

As a nurse, Debbie knew what that meant.  

She called Leigh Ann Ware, Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner late at night and then took him to the ER in San Antonio. Hunter’s blood sugar was approximately 600 and in two hours, he was officially diagnosed. Hunter stayed at the hospital for three days.

To assist the family, Debbie sought a nutritionist and diabetes educator to teach them what Hunter could eat and not eat. When Hunter was asked if he had any concerns, he wanted to know if he could play sports and show his steers, as well as still eat chips and queso. The doctor let him know that he could still do those things and the only thing Type 1 diabetes exempted him from are serving in the military and being a pilot.

Type 1 diabetes does not run in the Norment family and it does not have to run in a family for someone to have it. It is believed by many experts that Type 1 diabetes can be triggered by a virus. In Hunter’s case, he had pneumonia before the diagnosis.

Making adjustments

 

“The eating is still an every day deal, because you never know how it is going to affect his body,” said Debbie. 

Three days after leaving the hospital, Hunter took his own sugar. By the next week, he was giving himself injections. 

“He has really been strong with it and learned everything about it,” said Debbie. 

She also makes it a point to be honest with him. For example, he knows he cannot go outside barefoot or get a sore on his foot.

“His body doesn’t heal like a non-diabetic’s body.”

He still sees Leigh Ann Ware, along with Dr. Lauren Pankratz, Pediatric Endocrinologist in San Antonio. It is key that Hunter sees her every three months to have his A1C (average level of blood glucose) and have his carb ratio adjusted. His mother explained the constant math that goes into a Type 1 diabetic’s life. 

“Every unit of insulin is like, five carbs. So for every five carbs that he eats, he has to take a unit of insulin. If he eats a protein bar that is 30 carbs, that is six units of insulin that he has to take. Whereas our body (someone without Type 1 diabetes) would break it down, his does not. Anytime he eats, he has to give himself an injection.”

When Hunter was diagnosed he was in fifth grade. Going into his sixth grade year, Hunter and Debbie attended a Type 1 diabetes athletic camp in Florida, organized by professional baseball players.  The pro-athletes spoke to children and let them know they could do what they wanted to do and the importance of taking care of themselves.

“As an 11-year-old, what he got out of that is that he gets to have a milkshake after a game. So he does. We give him a milkshake after every game.”

This helps eliminate Hunter crashing in the morning.

“He will wake up in the morning and his blood sugar is normal,” said Debbie, explaining how the milkshake helps.

Support system at PHS

 

The Norments, Pleasanton High School Athletic Director Tab Dumont and Coach Stephanie Post shared how many of Hunter’s peers do not even know he has Type 1 diabetes.

“There are things he does not like about this disease process, but this is what God has handed Hunter and he will not let it stop him. I think eventually Hunter is going to be a spokesman for this. I want him to be that way towards the sport and the kids who think they cannot play due to this,” said Debbie. “They just have to have a coaching staff that allows you to do what you need to do and Pleasanton has that.”

He also had a support system at Poth, where he attended junior high.

The athletic department and student trainers know the clues to watch out for that signal whether Hunter’s sugar levels are too high or too low. Generally, if he is lethargic or cannot focus, it is too low. When it is too high, Hunter often gets irritable and is not himself. Especially in these situations, it is important that Hunter check himself. Debbie often texts his coaches throughout games and e-mails his teachers if he has had a difficult night. Debbie also said the family is fortunate that Hunter’s low blood sugar will wake him up. For some children, this is not the case.

Since he was 10, Hunter has only missed one day of school due to his diabetes. The time that he did was when he tried to use an insulin pump, where he would not have to inject himself. They wrapped it well for football, but the needle got bent. His sugar was back to 534 the next morning, so his parents kept him home so he could take in fluids and get his blood sugar levels back to normal.  

At Pleasanton High School, the Norment family has received tremendous support and maintained a great level of communication. Debbie met with Dumont and the freshmen coaches and Coach Post.

“This year he was on varsity football, so I asked Coach Dumont for a meeting with the coaches and every coach came in here. We gave out paperwork, they learned and asked questions. Coach Post gave her first injection, because she has to learn to give it out on the sidelines,” said Debbie.

“They wanted their son to participate, obviously we want to get their son out here, or anyone that wants to be out here. We just got together as a team and they educated us. I know that I speak for my staff when I say we have learned a lot the last two years. To me, it is a no-brainer. You would never know that Hunter has this,” said Dumont.

“Hunter doesn’t use this as a crutch and he doesn’t let it get in his way,” said Darold. 

Coach Dumont knows that Hunter’s parents know Hunter better than anyone and has given them the green light to come onto the field anytime they feel needed. 

During sporting events, Hunter has to check himself an average of four-five times.  One particular difficult game for Hunter, was the football game between Pleasanton and Jourdanton earlier this year, when the hype had an effect on his levels. Debbie has also noticed that the astroturf makes his levels all over the place. At that game,  he needed Gatorade and they paid extra attention to his levels. Snacks are always on hand to raise his sugar as needed, such as Fruit Roll-Ups, graham crackers and Skittles. 

Hunter tells others in the same position, “Don’t let it get in your way.”

Hunter’s plans after high school are to attend Texas A&M University and then become a veterinarian. He is proof that a positive attitude and great support system can allow you to keep doing what you love. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *