Little League Champ Won't Let Diabetes Hold Him Back
by Heather Graf
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Little League U.S. Champions from Goodlettsville are still the most famous 12-year-olds in Tennessee. On Tuesday, we checked in on one of them as he checked in on his health.
Luke Brown is probably best known for his game-winning strikeout in the U.S. Championship game at Williamsport.
What you might not know is that at the time, he was battling much more than his opponents on the field.
"When we got that diagnosis, it was a blow. I was not expecting it," said his mother, Amy Brown. "Especially not at age four. It was heartbreaking."
That's when the family learned Luke had Type 1 diabetes.
"It was awful," Luke says. "It was terrible. I couldn't do anything."
He soon started seeing doctors at the Pediatric Diabetic Clinic at Vanderbilt Medical Center. Starting at a young age, they taught him how to manage and control his disease.
"The goal is that eventually, when that person is a young adult, they are totally independent and managing their diabetes on their own," said Dr. William Russell.
The clinic treats about 2200 children and adolescents just like Luke.
When his doctors and nurses heard he was going to the Little League World Series, they were excited, but also worried.
"This is not a disease where you just come to the doctor and get a blood test and the doctor gives you instructions," said Dr. Russell. "Especially with children with type 1 diabetes, it's a constant struggle."
Luke's mother and father were equally concerned.
"Being responsible is definitely something we work on," said Robert Brown. "Because with diabetes, that's what it is, you have to be responsible."
Since Luke stayed in a special dorm with his team, his parents weren't there to help him monitor his blood sugar levels.
"I made a rule that he had to call me every night," said his mother. "And I said we'd talk about diabetes first, and then he could tell me everything that was going on that was exciting."
For Luke, it was just another adjustment, similar to the special pocket sewn into his sliding shorts that holds his insulin pump.
"I would test my blood before I got into the game, and that would tell me I'm okay," he said. "There was also a medical team out there, and I had juices in my bag, and we had Gatorade, so there was nothing to worry about."
On Tuesday, he got rave reviews from Dr. Russell, and not just about his performance on the field.
"It's totally empowering for other kids to look at that and say I could do that, I want to do that, and it doesn't stop him," said Dr. Russell.
Luke hopes his experience sends a message to others who struggle with the disease. He simply refused to let it hold him back.
"Diabetes is just a disease," he said. "Just live your normal life, and if you do that, you're going to be okay."
Luke has certainly stayed busy over the last few weeks.
After his doctor's appointment this afternoon, he headed straight to the Grand Ole Opry, where he and the rest of his team were honored onstage.