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You would never know there was anything going on with Ryan Brake if you saw him compete on the basketball court.
Driving to the net with authority, finishing at the rim and running a team are just some of the things he does well as a hoopster with the Corner Brook Intermediate Grade 8 boys team and the Humber Valley Mountaineers U14 club basketball squad.
He is a skilled dribbler who can drain the big shots when you need it. He works hard and plays to the final buzzer regardless of what is on the scoreboard.
The one thing that makes him different than his teammates is the external insulin pump he wears when he’s engaged in battle on the hardwood.
He has Type 1 Diabetes, a disease that requires him to receive insulin on a daily basis or he could die. The pump doesn’t do the work for him, but it helps manage the disease by allowing him to constantly monitor his sugar levels.
If Brake has a piece of food for his lunch he has to prick his finger and check his sugar. He has to input the amount of carbs he eats into his pump and then his pump provides insulin.
It’s easy to know where his sugar levels are at any given time.
If his sugar is low, then he’s usually fatigued, clammy and looks like he’s about to pass out.
If it’s high, he’s somewhat aggravated, flush red in the face and usually pretty intense on the floor. He also has to change the site on his body where insulin goes into his system every three days.
It can be stressful for him and his parents trying to keep it all in check, but Brake doesn’t let it get in the way of him having fun playing a game he’s grown to love since he started dribbling the ball at three years of age.
He has learned to adapt to the changes the pump brings and tackle the disease head on.
He just keeps it behind the scenes and deals with it and doesn’t make a big deal about it with his coaches or teammates.
That’s a pretty good attitude when the reality is he wouldn’t survive without the steady flow of insulin that the pump provides 24 hours a day.
“It doesn’t get in my way at all. It’s just there. It’s just life,” Ryan said Thursday afternoon.
He admits it is a challenge to deal with his condition while he’s focused on grooming his game to the level where he can play varsity basketball when he graduates from high school.
Brake has plenty of examples to pull from. Former NBA first round draft pick Adam Morrison played professionally with Type 1 Diabetes, as well as former pro Chris Dudley and current Gary Forbes.
He loves the sport so he’s gotten used to having it on him. Other than a bit of extra weight he doesn’t even know he got in on when he’s running back and forth the floor.
Jonathan Snow has been coaching Brake for a number of years and he knows about his condition quite well.
Snow believes Brake is a quality player who has leadership qualities and a guy who he believes is one of the best guards in the province for his age group.
Before every game, Snow has to make sure his sugar levels are fine. His parents even text him during games to make sure everything is fine.
There have been times when Snow thought he was going have to take Brake off the floor because he looked like he was going to pass out.
Snow loves the way Brake plays the game with passion and has always been impressed with how he never let his condition get in the way of him being up to the test.
The pump keeps him safe and allows him to do what he has to do to get on the hardwood with his teammates. He’s also told a lot of people that he won’t take it off because it has now become his good-luck charm.
Some people choose to let the disease bring them down and never pursue a love for a game. He chooses to beat it down and drive to the basket like there is no tomorrow.