On Aug. 4, Indy Car series driver Charles Kimball made history on several fronts. He took his first career win at the Honda Indy 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio and he is the only driver in the series who also has diabetes.
His popular win has made national headlines outside the racing world, because of his battle with the disorder that also affects 25.8 million people in the U.S., according to the American Diabetes Association. One of those is near and dear to my heart, my grandmother, Faye Hunter.
According to the ADA, diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body’s ability to produce and/or use insulin.
There are two types of the disease, type I and type II. Kimball is a type I, meaning the body does not produce insulin. He was diagnosed with it back in 2007 while racing in lower open-wheel divisions in Europe.
In 2010, he made his return to the United States to race in the Indy Lights series, which included sponsorship from diabetes health care provider Novo Nordisk. A year later, both parties made the jump to the Indy Car Series, when team owner Chip Ganassi gave him an opportunity. He has been there ever since, and he finally paid back Ganassi, with his first trip to victory lane in the series last Sunday.
“It’s nice to come back from that in 2007, and to find an in creditable diabetes community, and to have Novo Nordisk support and to prove those messages that you still can live your dreams with diabetes, Kimball said in the post race press conference. “To come now six years later and get a race win in the most competitive open wheel series in the world is fantastic. Coming back from that dark day, and have so much success, and to give back to that community is so fulfilling.”
A couple of days ago, I called my grandmother who suffers from Type II diabetes to tell her the good news about Kimball’s win at the race. Honestly, she does know him from any other sports star but she is my biggest fan as well as a remarkable and devout woman.
Type II is a body that causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal. Regardless of what type each person has, they have to measure their sugar levels on a pretty regular basis. Kimball has a special wireless, continuous glucose monitor that tells him to drink sugar water if his glucose level falls during a race.
As for my grandmother, she has to take regular insulin shots in order to control it.
Throughout my life, I have dealt with several challenges. For me, it was just recently being diagnosed with autism. Every step of the way, my grandparents have always been there no matter what. Even today, all I have to do is call them up. It has been my safe place during my life. Most of the times while I am there we either watch the news, sporting events, or the Gather homecoming videos.
As you know, I will watch pretty much any sport on television both traditional and non-traditional ones, and my grandparents will watch it with me.
One of those includes the IndyCar series since it is my favorite automobile racing series to watch. When I read Kimball joined the series a couple of years ago and also dealing with the same disease as my grandmother, I began to research more about the disease which affects 8.3 percent of the nation.
It was really informative to learn on how Kimball was going to deal with it during a race, while trying to be competitive at the same time. I was also learning on how my grandmother deals with it on a regular basis.
I could not thank God enough for a better role model in my life than her.
She is very caring, entertaining, and one of the funniest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. For example, I called her the other day to ask if I could tell her story to go along with discussing Kimball historical win for this column.
In her typical fashion, her response was, “Don’t you have somebody else that you can write about besides me?”
Most of the time, I would agree with her.
However, this time I just wanted to tell her thanks for always being there for me no matter what while fighting diabetes at the same time.