Little Leaguer stays active despite disease
Reagan Jorstad’s love for softball just might save her life.
The 11-year-old plays catcher for the Bossier All-Stars team, which finished second at the Little League Softball World Series this summer, is living with type 1 diabetes. Despite the diagnosis, Reagan continues to keep her eye on the ball and swinging for the stars.
It was in July 2012 when her family hit the road to Florida to play in a softball tournament. Heather Jorstad, Reagan’s mom, said that trip, however, was different than their usual family adventures.
Reagan, now 11, couldn’t get enough to drink and she was more tired than usual.
“She was just so thirsty,” Heather said, recalling her memories of that day.
When the family returned from Florida, she decided to look up Reagan’s symptoms. To her surprise, she found an answer.
“I thought there was no way it could be juvenile diabetes,” Heather said.
Then as she was talking to a friend, she decided it was time to see a doctor. The results of the appointment were life changing.
Reagan’s blood pressure was off the charts, Heather said, and they were immediately sent to LSU Health Sciences Center in Shreveport. Reagan was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
She spent three days in the hospital and by the time she was ready to go home, Reagan was pricking her finger all by herself.
“It was scary. I didn’t like it,” Reagan said. “I just felt really tired.”
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an autoimmune disease that strikes both children and adults at any age. It occurs when the body’s own immune system destroys the beta cells in the pancreas.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) says the “onset of T1D has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle.” However, Reagan’s doctor said her involvement with sports is more than likely what kept her blood sugar in the safe range.
“Playing ball all summer helped,” Heather explained. “It flared up when she stopped playing.”
JDRF is the leading global organization focused on type 1 diabetes research. Their goal with research is to improve the lives of all people affected by type 1 diabetes (T1D) by accelerating progress on the most promising opportunities for curing, better treating, and preventing T1D.
Heather said Reagan’s diagnosis did require an adjustment with eating habits, but nothing they couldn’t handle. As a family, they all became aware of the foods they ate in order to support Reagan’s new lifestyle.
“We were nervous about it in the beginning, but we prayed about it,” Heather said. “We didn’t ask why, but we asked God to help us learn about it. Reagan truly is God’s gift to us and this is who she was meant to be.”
Another adjustment was the use of an insulin pump. Reagan wears a wireless insulin pump that is hardly recognizable.
“Unless you see it, you don’t know she has it,” Heather added.
Reagan said the best part about it is that her friend’s at school and on the softball team don’t treat her any different because of it. Diabetes also hasn’t affected the way she plays the game.
“She tests before the game and after the game. She hasn’t had to test during a game or be pulled out because of it,” Heather said.
Reagan and her family will be participating as “Goose’s Gang” (Reagan’s nickname since early childhood) in the 2014 Craig Floyd Memorial Walk to Cure Diabetes in Bossier City on September 13. JDRF’s Walk to Cure Diabetes is one of the fastest growing fundraising events in the world.
Both Reagan and Heather hope the event will bring more awareness to the area about Type 1 diabetes. They also enjoy meeting other families who are going through the same thing they are.
Reagan attends Haughton Middle School, enjoys tumbling at gymnastics and says she may even become a doctor one day. Heather said all she wants is for her daughter to continue living life to the fullest and not let diabetes limit her abilities.
“I think about the things I did growing up and how it will be different for her, but there will always be people surrounding her that love her and will be there for her,” she said. “She’s busy, active, and energetic. I never want her to stop being who she is. As long as she takes care of herself, there won’t be a need to worry. This is livable and we live with it.”