We often hear about adult athletes with diabetes — especially when they win Olympic gold or have a run-in with the law. But we don't always get to hear about the younger athletes, the ones who are up-and-coming Olympians or World Champions. During the US Open last month, I spotted a young girl named Elizabeth Profit in a CNN article and was intrigued by her drive (and her OmniPod!).
Check out this amazing profile of the Elizabeth and her younger sister that aired on CNN:
Watch out, Williams Sisters — indeed
Elizabeth knows a thing or two about staying positive while overcoming challenges. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 2 ½ years old. She had already been playing tennis, amazingly enough, for a few months and didn't stop once her family was given the diagnosis.
"I think the parents have to let their kids become more independent and responsible for their diabetes," Elizabeth advises. "You have to teach the kid really early. Yes, it's difficult having diabetes... this is what you have to do in order to live healthy and take control of this disease."
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"[I] never saw [diabetes] as a hindrance, just something I have to take control over in order to stay healthy and play tennis at an elite level," Elizabeth says. As shown in the video, Elizabeth and her younger sister, Mary, play regularly at tournaments, and to accommodate the travel schedule, they live with their mother, Yvonne, in an RV — where she also home-schools them.
Like most athletes we know, Elizabeth tests her blood sugar very often — up to 12 times a day — and her mother does the testing during the night. Even little Mary helps out occasionally.
Oddly enough, sports is often cited as a reason people with diabetes don't want to commit to wearing an insulin pump, but Elizabeth's been a pumper for six years. For the past year, she's been on the OmniPod — my instrument of choice, as many of you know.
"The tube pump was problematic for me, [because it] would sometimes pop out of the pouch that was holding it supposedly secure," Elizabeth says. "Once I was playing a match, the pump popped out of the pouch!" On the court Elizabeth isn't given any preferential treatment because of her diabetes, so she tries to make sure her blood sugar is at a safe but elevated level before playing.
Elizabeth also encourages young kids to get active and stay active. She knows that exercise can have a positive impact on managing your diabetes, and says, "You'll be surprised [that] just engaging in one hour of activity a day will have a positive impact on your blood sugar and your overall health. Do something that's fun and stick to it."
Since mother Yvonne works full-time as Elizabeth and Mary's manager, they're not plugged to any employer's health plan. Rather, Elizabeth has insurance through the Children's Health Insurance Program, a federal program for children under 19 who don't have access to health insurance. Yvonne's required to send in detailed documentation about Elizabeth's diabetes and she maintains excellent records, on top of all her other challenges as a single mother home-schooling two champions-in-training. Wow!
The federal coverage covers Elizabeth's insulin pump, diabetes supplies and her doctor appointments with renowned pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Fran Kaufman.
At 13, Elizabeth is wise far beyond her years. "We all learn or should learn to deal with the cards we've been dealt." Her mother has taken to writing down Elizabeth's story, which you can find on the Profit sisters' website.
Elizabeth's dream is to someday play at the US Open. In her words: "I turn pro at 14 and I will continue to control my diabetes as opposed to allowing my diabetes to control me."
We'll be rooting for you, Elizabeth!