Eastlake's Cutler Gray pulls off a balancing act with diabetes, soccer
On a picnic table, Cutler Gray lays out all of the tools that help keep him alive. "I can show you if you want," he says. He sticks what's called...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Scores & stats
REDMOND — On a picnic table, Cutler Gray lays out all of the tools that help keep him alive.
"I can show you if you want," he says.
He sticks what's called a lancing device — a fancy, safer version of a pin — in his pinky. A dab of blood pools from the prick. He slides the blood onto a small strip, which connects to an electric meter. Three seconds later, the meter reads 123.
"That's perfect, right in range," he says.
Gray, a senior forward on Eastlake's boys soccer team, tests his blood sugar like this at least 10 times a day. On days he plays soccer — which is about every day — he runs at least 25 tests, including during practices and games.
Gray is one of approximately one million Americans who live with Type 1 diabetes, the less common — and less understood — type of a disease in which the body cannot control its blood-sugar levels. Gray's body does not create the insulin necessary for such control. He has dealt with it since fourth grade.
"It's kind of like breathing," Gray says of living with diabetes.
For the past two weeks, often playing in hot weather, Gray has been an important part of Eastlake's run to the Class 4A semifinals.
"He is the hardest-working member of this team, without a shadow of a doubt," Eastlake coach Adam Gervis says. "He's our Energizer bunny. It's amazing how that works — the kid with the least amount of energy, really."
Diabetes carries a number of dangerous side effects, with kidney failure or blindness certainly not the least of them. The best way to control blood-sugar levels and keep those side effects away is to test often, and if the blood sugar is too high or low, "correct for it," Gray says.
If it's too low, he quickly reaches for a bottle of Gatorade to get carbohydrates and electrolytes. He keeps a bottle in his backpack at all times, along with his insulin pen. If his blood sugar is too high, he takes a shot of insulin.
"It's all a balancing act," Gray says.
On days he plays soccer, he'll take as many as seven insulin shots. It's not an unusual sight for him to be shooting himself in the thigh in the middle of one of Gervis' halftime speeches.
When he's struggling to keep his energy, he'll sometimes pull himself out of the game. But not every time, though, so the coaches have learned telltale signs in his play that he needs a break.
"Because we've been around him for so many years, we have a sense of it, but not that good of a sense," Gervis says.
Gray discovered the disease during one week in fourth grade, when he displayed all the classic symptoms. He slept in until noon, even on school days. He couldn't stay out of the bathroom, and he could not stop eating or drinking. Eventually, a blood test showed he had diabetes.
"Going through puberty threw a lot of things at me I had to correct for, such as growing," Gray says.
At the same time, he was becoming serious about soccer, so it took time to learn how to play at a highly competitive level without endangering his health. That's been an ongoing struggle, but Gervis notes this past year has been Gray's best. For starters, he has not missed a game.
He hopes to walk on next year at Cal State Northridge, but his real pursuit is in film. For the past three years, he has documented each season with his camcorder.
This season, he says, "I've got a lot of bus footage."
That's because in the past three games, Eastlake won at Vancouver in a winner-to-state game, and followed that with blistering state playoff games in Pasco and Spokane. The team's already looking forward to looking back at their season when the video premieres at the team banquet.
"It's not about me, it's not about them, it's about the video," Gervis says. "They are so cool."
Tom Wyrwich: 206-515-5653 or email@example.com
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