Towards the end of last year we featured our first Type One Warrior, Sarah Munro. We wanted this to become a regular feature, and so it will. Understandably all of our journeys are different and that, if anything, is what we are trying to illustrate! We need to read stories like this to learn that a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is not specific to any one type of person. It crosses so many boundaries - age, race, gender, economic status. It is unpredictable to say the least.
One thing that I have noticed so far, in this journey, is that every Type One we have met is amazing! Every Type One has a story, be it a struggle or a triumph. When I first read about Marco Moolman I thought he would be a perfect fit for our next feature. Gerhard, Marco's dad, very kindly put together some highlights.
Last A1C score: 7.8
Lived with T1D for: 15 years
Marco's diagnosis story
Marco was diagnosed at the age of 22 months. As a baby he was always quite a good eater but his parents very soon picked up that he had lost his appetite and became very thirsty always asking for his bottle. When his parents realised he was losing weight they took him to a GP who immediately sent them to a Pediatrician late that same night. The pediatrician listened to Marco's symptoms and tested his blood glucose (BG). It measured a shocking 40mmol! Marco was immediately admitted into ICU and his parents were told that their baby boy was a Type One Diabetic.
"At that stage we had no frame of reference as our daughter, 3 years older than Marco, had nothing of the sort. Nor did anyone else in the family. We felt totally lost and overwhelmed with all the information and advice from the Doctor and nursing staff. Who do we listen to? Where do we turn to at night when BG levels just won't settle? We sometimes felt as if we were in a dark hole with nowhere to run. Reality is, we later realised, there is nowhere to run. You have to, simply put, face what is thrown your way. Everyday without fail!", Gerhard shared.
Marco has had four setbacks where he went into a hypoglycaemic coma because of dangerously low BG levels. On these days, Gerhard recalls him and his wife feeling like total failures. As time moved on they realised that they could only ever do their best, no more, no less.
Going to school
Sending Marco to preschool was a huge challenge. The Moolman's were faced with having to place their responsibility of caring for their child into the hands of others. Marco was 4 when he started preschool and Gerhard recalls the challenge of feeling like their child was their responsibility and not that of caregivers. Sending him off to primary school was an even greater challenge.
"Even though, as a parent, you want to wrap your Diabetic child up in cotton wool and protect him from whatever the world throws at them, we decided to expose Marco to as much normal as possible!"
At the age of four, Marco started on the pump. This made a huge difference in his Diabetes Management. He was very sporty from a young age and played rugby, hockey and started cycling at the age of 9.
School tours and camps were always challenging but Marco's parents managed to send him on every camp. Either mom or dad joined the camp, staying in a nearby guesthouse or hiding between teachers.
When Marco started highschool he decided to concentrate on his hockey and cycling. He played in the A side for his school every year and formed part of the school's mountain bike team that has won the Spur Highschool MTB National Series for 3 years running. Marco was the only Type One Diabetic cyclist at the Nationals and finished int he Top 10 in his age category every year.
"In 2016 we were made aware of Team Novo Nordisk, a pro cycling team in the USA that consisted of only Type One Diabetic cyclists. Marco was invited to join their Talent ID Camp at the Georgia University in Athens, Georgia in 2017. He was the first South African cyclist to be invited and really made a big impression in the USA."
Roll on February 2018, and we were informed that Marco had made the Junior Team of cyclists from around the globe to race in Belgium, Canada and USA under the banner of Team Type 1 Foundation, a feeding team for Team Novo Nordisk Pro Cycling. He will be travelling abroad in April and July of this year for Junior Tours against the top Junior cyclists the world has to offer. This racing can be described as one level below Junior World Champs.
Marco has just returned from Belgium and Holland where he played several hockey tournaments. He was one of two Type 1 Diabetics from his school that went on tour and everything went well. Marco managed his BG levels well and has no issues. Naturally he hated the Diabetic diet someone ordered for him on his flight - that being the worst part of the tour.
He's back in Belgium from 25 April until 22 May competing in the World Class Junior Cycling Tours and Races. There are 8 to 10 races that he will be competing in as part of the Type 1 Foundation Junior Cycling Team. Only 8 Type 1 cyclists from around the world are selected, Marco being the first South African ever.
One difficult thing Marco has had to overcome being Type 1 Diabetic: Having to eat selectively, and not whatever he wants when he wants.
Favourite hypo snack: Doritos - the blue packet!
Positive message for other Type One Warriors: Life with T1D just needs more discipline. You are able to do ANYTHING you want and don't have to stand back for anyone or anything! Take life by the horns and make a difference. Diabetes is not something you chose, Diabetes chose you.
Best part about being a Type 1: Being able to have snacks during class when your BG levels are low.
One thing Marco would love non-diabetics to know about Type 1 Diabetes: Type 1 Diabetes is not caused by eating sweets. People threaten their kids with Diabetes when they eat sweets and that is VERY wrong. T1D is also not transferable.
For newly diagnosed families, Marco has this to say:
"I have been living with Diabetes basically my whole life, from the age of 22 months, so you're going to be fine. Don't let life get you down and live like the warrior you were chosen to be. To the parents I would like to say, take it day by day. Your child has a full life ahead of him/her. Nothing you did wrong caused Diabetes, so team up and manage it."
You can follow Marco on his instagram here!