A local teen is using his own unexpected diagnosis to raise awareness about diabetes.
Alex Schmidt, 16, of New Franklin, has been sharing his experiences and positive attitude through a blog since discovering at the start of the last school year that he has type 1 diabetes. Only about 5 percent of diabetics have this rarer form of the disease, which typically is diagnosed in children and young adults.
Now he’s recruiting others to help him raise money to support diabetes education, patient advocacy and research through the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure.
Schmidt is leading a team of friends and family members in the Cuyahoga Falls location of the national fundraiser June 29 at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy.
He will wear an official “Red Rider” bike shirt reserved for type 1 diabetics participating in the charity ride, which has routes ranging from 10 to 64 miles.
Schmidt’s medical problems began several days before he started his sophomore year last fall at Manchester High School.
His parents noticed the typically healthy teen was not acting like his usual, easy-going self.
“He was just being a jerk and Alex is not the kind who’s a jerk,” said his father, Jason.
When he started having to urinate frequently, his mother, Elizabeth, took him to the doctor’s office, where his parents expected him to be diagnosed with an infection.
Instead, an in-office test revealed his blood sugar levels were dangerously elevated to about eight times the normal limit.
“We’re really lucky we caught him before he passed out,” his mother said.
“I was shell-shocked,” he added.
He was taken to an emergency room and then transferred to Summa Akron City Hospital, where he spent three days in the intensive-care unit.
Instead of focusing on the start of school and upcoming band performances, Schmidt spent his time learning how to administer insulin shots and watch his diet.
Months later, he got an insulin pump, which is programmed to administer insulin based on his blood sugar levels and the amount and type of food he eats.
As Schmidt learned about his diabetes and wanted to share the information, his father suggested he resurrect and update his old website — http://alexcomics.com. The elder Schmidt started the site for his son several years earlier to post the comics he used to draw.
Since then, he’s written honest, humor-filled posts about learning to manage his diabetes, as well as an educational video he created.
“Alex knows so much about this disease,” his father said. “He does his research.”
He reminds friends and family that although he has a disease, he’s still a typical teen who likes to hang out with his friends and play the piano and drums.
“It’s a manageable disease,” he reassures them. “I think I’ll be fine. I take medicine. It’s not a big deal to me.”
In recent months, he’s been using the website to help raise money for the upcoming American Diabetes Association fundraiser.
“In those early days, the American Diabetes Association was the key source for me, my family, and my friends as we struggled to come to terms with diabetes,” Schmidt said in a recent blog post. “Any question we could think of was answered in their website. Through the ADA website forums, I was able to connect with other teenagers and adults who also have diabetes.
“Over the last few months, I’ve learned that although education is an important part of their mission, the ADA is much more than that. They also fund research into diabetes, and let me tell you when they finally perfect that artificial pancreas I will be first in line! They also engage in advocacy for those of us who have diabetes at the local, state, and national level.
“Because of all the good work that the ADA does, I am riding in the 2013 Tour de Cure to help raise money to support their mission.”
He has a goal of raising at least $1,000 for the charity. (Participants in Tour de Cure events pledge to collect at least $200 in donations.)
“We couldn’t be more proud of how Alex has handled this,” his father said.
For more information about Tour de Cure events throughout the region and nationwide, go online to http://tour.diabetes.org.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.