Baseball Season! The time of year when Little League games will soon begin! I remember my husband buckling seatbelts around waists of toothless grins before closing the door to our minivan. It was “Sign-Up Day,” at our county Athletic Association.
I’d like to say that playing sports isn’t any different for children living with chronic conditions. When my own kids were diagnosed, that was my hope. Could it be true? No, I was being defiant. Wanting my sons to run bases without worry. Hoping the knowledge in my head wouldn’t break my heart.
In a small building on the busiest street in town, folding tables were set in a room of peeling paint. At first glance, it looked as though a country wedding was about to begin. Instead, there was a cardboard box of printed paper surrounded by an unspoken order. Tiny boxes needed be checked under fluorescent lights of bright white. Names and addresses and ages too, were to be added in lines of blue.
Days later, an official looking letter arrived. Like the first day of school, it listed an assigned teacher (coach) together with a classroom (team). My boys delighted in this. Especially the name of their teams! Raptors, Thunder, or Boys of Wonder? It didn’t matter. A Home Run had already been hit within their imaginations….
That first season started only weeks after my oldest was diagnosed with diabetes. Mothers and others covered their mouths, back then. They whispered behind my back, “Was it possible to play with his condition,” someone asked? Yes, my son could play baseball! I would figure out a way. He was no different from any other little boy…..Besides, he was good with the ball and a quick runner. He could steal bases faster than any other six-year-old on his team. His coaches nicknamed him, “Jet.” Once he started running, he didn’t stop. Two years before, Forrest Gump!
I’m not going to lie. It wasn’t always easy. Adrenalin made my boy’s blood sugar drop like the pitcher’s ball at home plate. Sometimes, I’d dash off to the dug-out to prick his finger, checking a single drop of blood to see if his number was “low.” If so, he’d drink a can of juice or eat some food brought from home. Sometimes both. Then off he’d go, out into the field of green to play and run and have some fun.
My youngest son who was diagnosed with asthma, had obstacles too, with sports. Exercise was a huge asthma trigger for him. He used a preventive inhaler before each game. Even at a young age, he was still a big little guy who slammed the ball far into the field. After running around all three bases, he often had to sit out for an inning or more. Holding his chest, he’d gasp for breath. Deeply, he’d inhale white powdered medicine from his rescue inhaler. It was hard for him to sit on the bench while his friends played a game that he loved. Harder still not to breathe….
God taught me many lessons during the years my kids played baseball. After all, I lived at the ball park from the first game in spring until the end of summer. In turn, both of my children learned lessons too. Living with a chronic condition didn’t stop them from pursuing what they wanted in life. No matter what, they could always try something new. Together, they played sports of all kinds. Somehow, they found a way. First and foremost, they were kids who happened to live with……….whatever.
If your child lives with a chronic condition, do whatever it takes to make their dreams come true. Ask for help, pray to God and wish upon a star. If you believe in their dreams, they will too.
Jayson Gosselin–Age 6 First Year of Little League
Justin-Age 7, First Year Jayson-Age 9