Adam Duvall: A T1D Story

Adam Duvall has 79 HR since the start of 2016 – that’s more than Bryce Harper. He has 263 RBI since then as well, 10th most in the majors. He has a top 25 in MLB ISO (Isolated Power: SLG – AVG) over the last 2-1/2 seasons – .233, same as Manny Machado. He has an All-Star game selection and a Home Run Derby semi-final appearance. He has 2 Gold Glove finalist selections.

He also has diabetes.

No, not the kind your grandpa gets because he’s old and overweight. Not the kind of diabetes that Wilford Brimley refers to as “diabeetus” in those commercials from the 90s that came on during The Price is Right. That’s Type-2 diabetes. Adam Duvall has Type-1 diabetes (T1D), also known as juvenile diabetes, and so do I. Here’s my T1D story:

I was in my 4th semester at Georgia Tech. It was a Monday and I was returning to campus from my girlfriend’s house at Auburn. It had been another sleepless night b/c I had gotten up to pee at least 4 times. I was thirsting so badly that I had to stop twice on the drive back to get sodas/sports drinks from convenience stores. I would down them in the first mile back on the road.

I parked where I usually do, near the ME building, and walked completely across campus to my class (I don’t remember what the class was, it was in a building near the library). It was less than a 10 minute walk, but I felt like I had just run a marathon. One of my friends was in my class and said “Man, you look like hell.” I said I didn’t feel great either & wasn’t sure what was up. He said I should go to the infirmary and I said I would after class.

I struggled thru class, barely able to concentrate. My vision was blurry and all I wanted to do was go to sleep, I was so exhausted. I’d lost a bunch of weight since finals the previous semester – something like 35 pounds in 3 months. I just thought it was stress that was screwing up my eating habits. After class, I made the trek back across campus towards the infirmary, stopping along the way at a vending machine in the ME building for a Powerade. I chugged it down and headed up the hill to the clinic.

Before I could make it up the hill (just a few minute walk), I had to step off the sidewalk and I threw up the entire bottle of Powerade I had just downed. I got to the infirmary, told them I didn’t feel well, described my symptoms, and they said that I was just exhausted and needed to get some rest. I said I had just thrown up outside the building and they said “That changes things, we’ll check you out.” They had me pee in a cup and then I waited in a room. A few minutes later, the nurse came in and said “We think you have diabetes. You should go to the ER at Piedmont Medical Center.”

I left the infirmary pretty much in a complete daze. Diabetes? How could I have diabetes? I’m a 22 yr-old, healthy college kid. I walked back to my car and called my parents to get directions to Piedmont. I think they were just as shocked as I was. I tried to keep from crying, but I wasn’t able to. My dad helped calm me down & gave me the directions I needed & said they’d be on their way ASAP (from South Carolina, 4-1/2 hrs away). Then I called my girlfriend and told her I was going to the ER with the possibility that I had diabetes. She said she’d be on her way once she was done with classes for the day (she was in grad school at Auburn).

I got to the ER, barely. I should have gotten someone to drive me, but in my daze I couldn’t think of anyone to call to take me. I checked in and said the GT infirmary told me to come because they think I have diabetes. They took my info and a finger stick to test my blood sugar and told me to head to the waiting room.

A little while later, my uncle showed up. He worked very close to the hospital and, as I found out later, my dad had called him as soon as I got off the phone with him, and told my uncle to meet me at the ER. He waited with me for the night.

I hadn’t eaten much that day and was hungry so I borrowed some change from my uncle to get some crackers from a vending machine. My mouth was so dry that I could barely eat a single one. Eating one of them was like trying to do the saltine cracker challenge.

I was eventually taken to an ER bed where they hooked me up to an insulin IV for the night. I still wasn’t really sure what was going on or why this had happened. My parents & girlfriend showed up later that night & stayed with me as long as they were allowed. Nurses came in every half hour for the entire night to prick my finger to test my blood sugar.

The next morning, Feb 1, 2006, an endocrinologist met with me & my parents to tell us about my new condition and “officially” diagnose my as a Type-1 diabetic. He told me that when the ER tested my blood sugar from that first finger stick when I arrived, it was 840. A normal blood sugar is around 100. I was just a few minutes away from a diabetic coma. I don’t recall a lot about that meeting, but I do recall a question my dad asked the doctor. He said “Doc, why does this happen to a perfectly healthy, 22-year college kid?” The doctor said bluntly “If we knew that, we could prevent it.” Quite sobering.

My girlfriend, parents and I, also met with a diabetes educator to learn about the treatment of my new condition. I won’t go into details, but my life as I knew it was over. I could never eat anything again without thinking about how many carbohydrates were in the food or how much insulin I would have to take. My girlfriend took it all in and was my savior for the the whole thing. She would come to my place in Atlanta, and would prepare 2-3 weeks worth of meals that I could freeze. We worked together to count the carbs so I knew exactly how much insulin I would need for each meal.

I have now lived with this condition for 12 years. In that time, I graduated from Georgia Tech, moved to Richmond, VA, got a great job, married the love of my life (the aforementioned girlfriend), built a house, and had 2 amazing kids. I wear an insulin pump to treat my condition. It’s a pager-sized device that I clip to my belt that delivers insulin into my body 24/7/365. It’s basically my lifeline – without it, I would die.

I wouldn’t wish his disease on my worst enemy. I’m scared s***less that one day, one of my children will start to show some of the same symptoms that I experienced 12-1/2 years ago. There is no cure for Type-1 diabetes. There are only treatments. Advances in the treatment of T1D have come a long way in the last few years and it’s very possible an artificial pancreas will be available by the end of this decade. I’m waiting anxiously for that day.

Adam Duvall went through all this at age 23 as a High-A baseball player. He lost 20 pounds in 2 months, couldn’t lift weights without getting light-headed, couldn’t sleep because he was waking 5-6 times a night to pee. When he was finally diagnosed during Spring Training in 2012, he probably could have said “Man, there’s no way I can keep playing high-level baseball with a condition that screws with my body 24/7.” But he didn’t. He said “OK, where do we go, what do we do now, and just take care of it.”

Imagine having to think about the amount of carbohydrates you’re putting into your body every single time you eat anything at all. Now consider having to worry about the possibility of blacking out when you work out (something that did happen to me once) or when you train to stay in shape to play major league baseball, a grueling, 8-month grind through the heat of the summer that most fans can’t even contemplate fully. Imagine those things being in the back of your mind when you’re in the batter’s box facing 98 mph heat and knee-buckling breaking balls. That’s what Adam Duvall does every single day. He wears an insulin pump while he’s playing – it’s usually in his back pocket, protected by the same type of stuff bicycle helmets are made of. It delivers life-saving insulin 24/7, whether he’s bashing home runs or sliding in the outfield grass to make a run-saving catch.

There are many reasons why fans choose a favorite baseball player. Maybe they signed a baseball for them & were really nice to them on the occasion when they met. Maybe they’re an under-rated grinder, a quiet leader that hits nothing but singles (which are actually mostly doubles). Maybe they’re a cerebral pitcher who doesn’t dazzle with velocity but baffles with location, movement, & sequencing. Coming into this season, Adam Duvall was my favorite “non-Brave” baseball player because I relate to him for the struggles I went through when I was diagnosed with diabetes and the way the disease has radically changed my entire life and will forever. He went through the same experience and is now playing the game I love at the highest level for the team I’ve loved for my entire 35-year life. He could hit like Emilio Bonifacio and I wouldn’t care – he’s Adam Duvall and he’s what T1D looks like.

For more on Duvall’s story, read here. For more info on Type-1 diabetes and the on-going research in the treatment of the disease, please visit http://www.jdrf.org/.

20 thoughts on “Adam Duvall: A T1D Story

  • August 2, 2018 at 1:21 pm
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    Hey I really enjoyed this article. I was diagnosed with Type 1 when I was 16 (now 22). That was back when I was full force into competitive travel baseball and had to face the same thing Duvall faces now. I can relate with him and you. Love this piece

    Reply
    • August 2, 2018 at 2:38 pm
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      Thanks for reading and sharing, man. When the Braves got Duvall, I saw it as an opportunity to spread awareness for T1D and for Duvall himself. I’m amazed that he, and others like Sam Fuld, Brandon Morrow, Mark Lowe, & Dustin McGowan, are able to perform at the highest level of baseball while also dealing with the rigors of T1D. Best of luck to you brother!
      – Braves Options Guy (aka Boggy)

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      • March 4, 2019 at 12:49 am
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        Thanks for sharing Adam Duvall’s and your T1d story. I’m glad you made it to the hospital and got properly diagnosed. Can you imagine if the clinic just sent you home? I think it’s harder for adults (even in their 20’s) to get properly diagnosed with T1d, because the doctors aren’t looking for it with adults, as much as they may with kids.

        When my son was diagnosed 4 years ago at the age of 10, I carried him into the ER because he was unresponsive. I was clueless. A nurse saw us and ran over and tested his blood. He was high and they called a code and it felt like a tv show. He was in the ICU for a week. A few months later he made our city’s baseball All-Star baseball team. We’d have to pull him off the mound for juice or shots but he kept going. Now he’s in high school and is out due to an elbow injury. He’s still my All Star.

        I’m so glad your family and your wife were there to support you. Sounds like you have a great team yourself!

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  • August 2, 2018 at 8:54 pm
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    Thanks for sharing your story. My was in college when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He’s an incredible athlete and huge baseball fan (we both are). He was running a lot and attributed the sudden weight loss and increased thirst to that. Though I don’t wish T1D on anyone, I do find comfort in hearing similar stories and knowing there are other families living and thriving while navigating T1D. We have three precious little girls & we recently moved to the ATL area so I have a new favorite player to cheer on ❤️

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    • August 3, 2018 at 8:41 am
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      Thanks for reading Brittany. It’s nice to know that there are others in the Braves community that have experienced the same things I/we have. The instant I heard that Duvall was T1D, I had the connection of a shared experience with him, so when he was traded to my favorite team, I was super excited. Tell your husband I get exactly what he went through in college and we’re different, stronger men than we were before, mostly b/c of the strong women we have beside us along the way. Give your beautiful girls hugs from Knockahoma Nation! <3
      - Braves Options Guy (aka Boggy)

      Reply
  • August 2, 2018 at 10:24 pm
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    My boy is the biggest Braves fan ever!! He was Diagnosed 15 months ago at 17. All the more reason to love our Braves! Love for him to read these stories as encouragement to live his life to the fullest!!

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    • August 3, 2018 at 8:48 am
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      Thanks for readying Cindy. I’m sure your family has had a crazy last year+ dealing with a T1D diagnosis. It’s life-changing, but it doesn’t have to be a burden. It can be a way to stay focused on yourself and your health (in this case, your son’s) and a reminder of the amazing things we’re given in life. Best of luck to your son and your family. Go Braves!
      – Braves Options Guy (aka Boggy)

      Reply
  • August 3, 2018 at 1:39 pm
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    Thanks for the details of your story and Adam’s. Awareness will lead to the cure! We are just a month in with our 5 yr old son’s diagnosis. Seeing Adam’s story last night during the game and sharing this article with him provides encouragement and hope that is so important. Thanks!!! Go Braves!

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    • August 3, 2018 at 2:50 pm
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      Thanks for reading Tim. A new diagnosis can be very difficult to wrap your head around but there is lots of support available out there. The main suggestion I can give to a parent of a newly diagnosed child is to stay patient and learn AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE about the condition, the symptoms of hypoglycemia, and counting carbs. Look into getting your son an insulin pump as soon as you feel comfortable in his abilities to wear one. Be diligent with his school nurse (when he starts school) and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I volunteer at my son’s school and have created a relationship with the school nurse so that I can be sort of an advocate for the elementary school students that have T1D. Let your son know that having diabetes doesn’t make him different – it makes him special and strong. Give him love from Knockahoma Nation. Go Braves!!!!
      – Braves Options Guy (aka Boggy)

      Reply
  • August 3, 2018 at 4:46 pm
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    Great story. My son was diagnosed at age 2. He’s 11 now and a baseball fanatic. He plays catcher on his travel ball team and once had an umpire tell him he had to take his Walkman off during the game. It was his insulin pump! None of the kids on the team even knew what a Walkman was. We were watching last night when they did the piece about Adam and T1D. My son knew about it but I didn’t. It’s great for these kids to have role models like Adam and I’m thrilled he has joined the Braves

    Reply
    • August 6, 2018 at 4:49 pm
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      Thanks for reading James. Huge kudos to your son (and you!) for managing his T1D and being able to play catcher. That’s awesome! Best of luck to him and you in your endeavors together, in baseball and in life. Much love from Knockahoma Nation. Go Braves!!!
      – Braves Options Guy (aka Boggy)

      Reply
  • August 6, 2018 at 3:44 pm
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    Love this article! I was diagnosed as a type 1 in my final year at GT. Won’t forget the sleepless nights because of having to get up to pee, or not being able to fall asleep because my legs were itchy from being so dehydrated. Worst was on a drive back to Tech from Athens from a UGA pharmacy interview- I remember calling my mom and telling her I couldn’t read the highway signs or even the license plate in front of me. My husband (also a type 1) and I have followed Duvall closely and are so excited he is part of the Braves family now!

    Reply
    • August 6, 2018 at 4:54 pm
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      Thanks for reading Lauren. It’s pretty awesome to have a connection to a pro ball player like we do with Adam Duvall – he doesn’t know us from Adam but WE know what he went through when he was diagnosed and what he goes through on a daily basis to maintain his BG levels and stay healthy. It’s a very cool thing. Glad to know there are other T1D Yellow Jackets out there too! Best wishes to you and your husband from Knockahoma Nation. Go Braves!
      – Braves Options Guy (aka Boggy)
      #THWg 😉

      Reply
  • August 11, 2018 at 4:33 pm
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    I love Adam because he’s a Louisville boy who went on to play for my favorite team – the Reds!! & he has Type 1 like my daughter, a college softball player who was diagnosed in high school. So sad to see Adam get traded but I now see that he can inspire a new Southern T1 crowd, so that’s ok. You can see his pump in his back pocket when you’re in the stands 🙂

    Reply
    • August 13, 2018 at 1:50 pm
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      Thanks for reading Sarah. Hope this means the Braves picked up another fan, at least when they’re not playing Cincinnati! Best of luck to your daughter and the rest of your family. Welcome to Knockahoma Nation. 🙂
      – Braves Options Guy (aka Boggy)

      Reply
  • September 11, 2018 at 5:32 pm
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    I have a 16 y.o. grandson who has type 1 diabetes for almost 3 yrs now and I would love it if there was somewhere he could go to for a talk on this horrible disease…he’s very athletic and works out every day and tries to eat healthy on top of wrestling but he has so many high and low glucose levels and gets very discouraged and to say his stress level is high is an understatement… if there is a sports athlete that he could talk with or go to a speaking engagement about how to deal with and accept this it would be a “Godsend “…

    Reply
  • September 12, 2018 at 11:55 am
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    Thanks for reading and sharing Kathy. I know how difficult it can be dealing with T1D and I’m NOT an athlete – I’m just a working professional and a dad of 2. Adam Duvall, Sam Fuld, Brandon Morrow, Mark Lowe, & Dustin McGowan are all major league baseball players that deal with T1D on a daily basis. Jay Cutler (former NFL QB), Conor Daly & Charlie Kimball (Indy Car drivers), and Ryan Reed (NASCAR driver) all compete at the highest levels of their sports while managing T1D. I’d suggest following some of those people on social media to see if/when they’re having speaking engagements. Adam Duvall recently hosted one in DC when the Braves visited the Nationals.
    I’d also follow the JDRF on social media for updates on the latest developments in the treatment of T1D and dealing with it on a daily basis.
    Does your grandson wear an insulin pump? Insulin pumps are the best daily treatment for T1D in my opinion – my blood sugar levels and energy levels were all over the place when I was using daily insulin injections. Once I got a pump, my blood sugars were WAY more stable and I never have to worry about not having insulin with me when I need it. The latest pump technology will actually automatically adjust your insulin intake based on your blood sugar levels that are measured with a sensor you wear on your body. It’s amazing and I’ll be getting one early next year.
    Best wishes to you and your grandson. Go Braves!
    – Braves Options Guy (aka Boggy)

    Reply
  • September 26, 2018 at 12:02 pm
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    What a great story. You are a very brave person. I am also a fan of Adam Duvall and although I do not have T1D I was diagnosed in 2017 with an autoimmune disease of which there is no cure and of unknown origins. It’s called sarcoidosis and I have to submit to regular breathing tests and exams with my PCP and three specialists to ensure that it does not overtake my lungs or migrate to my heart, eyes, and brain. I consider myself lucky because when the symptoms were first noticed the fear was that it was cancer because of two enlarged lymph nodes and an enlarged spleen but a chest biopsy revealed sarcoidosis. I’m living with it and trying to do the best that I can. Good luck to you and I wish you the best in your battle with T1D and hope that you continue to enjoy the things that you love and the people that you care about. God bless.

    Reply
    • September 26, 2018 at 3:09 pm
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      Thank you for reading & sharing Felix. You can be an inspiration to those around you just by always staying positive and working hard to stay healthy. Best of luck to you with your fight against sarcoidosis. Go Braves!
      – Braves Options Guy (aka Boggy)

      Reply
      • September 28, 2018 at 7:49 pm
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        Thanks! Watching Folty tonight. 5 ks through 6 batters! Folty, Gausman, & Fried – three 2019 starters.

        Reply

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