A balancing act: Hood manages sports, school ... and diabetes
Like other student-athletes, Linzie Hood has to balance school, sports, family and friends.
But the Mt. Pleasant senior has something else she has to balance, too: diabetes.
While most student athletes eat what and when they can, Hood has to be careful about when she eats, because her blood sugar levels depend on it.
This is especially critical during sports practice and games — something that Hood knows all about, as a varsity volleyball and soccer player. She has also participated in high school basketball, and she is a high brown belt in taekwondo — just one step away from a black belt.
When she plays sports, she gets a spike in blood sugar due to the adrenaline, and a shot of insulin keeps her blood sugar down. But immediately after playing, she has to get a snack to elevate it again — when the adrenaline goes away, the insulin makes her blood sugar plummet.
This is a balancing act that she's been working on for more than five years now.
Hood was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2007, when she was in seventh grade. She even remembers the date – Sept. 6.
Type 1 diabetes — sometimes called juvenile diabetes, although it can be diagnosed at any age and is a lifelong condition — means that the body does not produce insulin, which is needed to convert sugar that is in the blood into energy, according to the American Diabetes Association.
The diagnosis didn't come as too much of a surprise for Hood. The condition is genetic — unlike Type 2, which is far more common and is developed later in life.
Type 1 diabetes runs in Hood's family. She said that she had the symptoms only a short time before her parents brought her in to the doctor.
"I lost a lot of weight, and then my body started rejecting food," Hood said. "I was drinking a lot of water, but still woke up with a dry mouth. I slept a lot, and was angry — it messes with your emotions."
She started playing sports around the time she developed diabetes. She played rec soccer and flag football and participated in track and field. She joined the basketball team in seventh grade.
Blood sugar was harder for her to regulate when she was young.
"You're still just learning," she said. "And in middle school, that's the age when you try to do everything by yourself. I didn't want my parents to help me. I tried to do everything, and then had everything else (the diabetes) on top of it. I really made it harder on myself."
But since then, she's figured it out.
She gives herself at least five shots of insulin a day, and if she eats snacks, then more than that.
She has to be especially careful to regulate her blood sugar when she's playing sports.
"When it's hot outside, your body shuts down and your mind goes blank," she said. "It drops your peak performance. The coaches I've had for four years, they notice a difference. Earlier, they didn't notice."
But with some help from her insulin, diabetes doesn't even slow Hood down.
"As long as I regulate it, I can do whatever I want," Hood said.
When pushed, she did note that she can't drink regular soda on a regular basis, or anything else that's high in sugar, like some lemonades. But other than that, she can do anything that someone without diabetes can do.
And as the final week of Diabetes Awareness Month approaches, that's what Hood wants people to be aware of.
"It's important to know how to treat it, and that it doesn't keep kids from doing anything. It's people thinking that they can't do something that stops them,” she said.
Hood learned this all-important lesson when she got a chance to go to Hertko Hollow, a week-long camp for Iowa kids (age 6-18) with diabetes, which is located in Boone.
According to the camp's website, the goal is to allow campers to participate in traditional camp activities while learning how to manage their diabetes.
"Everyone knows what everyone else is going through," Hood said. "It's like not being diabetic, because everyone is the same. Everyone has medication."
In fact, the insulin is even provided by the camp — which gives a short break to parents, who can shell out over $1,000 every month for medication.
"Just for me to eat and live, that's $1,200 a month," Hood said. "And I don't even have the highest dose."
Hood has recently been accepted as a volunteer at Hertko Hollow, and she is in the process of finding a way to raise funds so another kid can go there.
The camp meant a lot to her, and she wants to make sure others experience it, too.