Perspective/Type 1 Diabetes
One day, in the school cafeteria, a young police officer was speaking with my seven-year-old son Casey’s teacher. When he noticed her holding a phone displaying Casey’s blood glucose (BG) data, he learned that Casey has type 1 diabetes (T1). There followed a series of kindnesses that would not only affect Casey and his family but, after I shared them on social media, instantly draw heartfelt gratitude, tears and praise from thousands worldwide in the T1 community.
His name is Dalton Scola. He was diagnosed with T1 as a child, so he asked my son’s teacher if she could introduce them. When he informed Casey that he too has T1, they discovered they use the same insulin pump. The officer assured my son he would always have his support and to feel free to approach him around town with questions. Officer Scola understood how comforting to a child it would be to know others living successfully with T1; as a child he had never had that benefit himself. His kindness didn’t end there. After learning who Casey’s parents are, he drove to our business, READ Preschool and Camp Tuscaloosa, to introduce himself. He said that we too have his support, and he thanked me for spreading awareness about T1 with my monthly column, Perspective: Type 1 Diabetes.
There was no mistaking Officer Scola’s impact. Arriving home from school that day, Casey talked excitedly about meeting him. Casey is lucky to know others with T1 but he felt especially supported by this young officer’s unexpected gesture. He was thrilled to see his new friend—now one of his “favorite people”—some days later when I interviewed him for this column. Casey and his older brother rollerbladed around the room laughing, being silly and having fun. Officer Scola was delighted. He smiled, broke into laughter himself, and exclaimed he loved seeing kids be kids. Casey paused from rollerblading to ask how he does his job with T1. Officer Scola also showed him his pump and explained some settings he uses.
By age 10 he had developed extreme thirst and frequent urination, along with strange bruising from his wrists to his elbows while playing football. Concerned, Dalton’s family took him to the doctor, where they discovered his BG was 670 and his A1C (3-month average of BG) was high. Knowing his life would forever change, his parents stopped at IHOP for pancakes before taking him to the hospital, gifting him one last meal without strings attached. He has never forgotten that. He was nervous and unclear what his T1 diagnosis meant, but his parents were very supportive.
Officer Scola doesn’t remember much about how life changed after his diagnosis, except that he stopped playing football to focus on baseball. He began managing his T1 more independently in high school when participating in sports depended on him doing so. He once became less attentive to his T1 for several months, but quickly realized that such neglect wasn’t sustainable. An avid hunter, he learned another lesson while hiking to his post one day: always—always—carry something with you to counter low BG. He knew after the half-mile hike that his BG had dropped into hypoglycemia, but then realized he had nothing to bring it back up! He was lucky to make it safely back to his car for a snack.
A family friend worked as a state trooper and, after pondering policing for several years, young Dalton decided at age 18 to become a police officer. Training in the police academy is harder with T1 but like many in the T1 world he soldiered through, never using T1 as an excuse to avoid anything. In fact, he emphasizes the importance of exercise. He runs up to 5 miles five days a week. He knew training with T1 would require extra steps, but that being vigilant of his BG was crucial. To manage exercise then and now, he elevates his BG beforehand. If his BG goes low, he eats fast-acting carbohydrates and then resumes the activity.
Officer Scola tests his BG with a blood glucose meter and uses an insulin pump, which he keeps in his pocket. He can feel when his BG is high or low. If high, he uses his pump’s quick bolus function, allowing him to discreetly press a series of buttons through his pants pocket to administer insulin. At bedtime, he makes sure his BG is around 200 so that by morning his BG is safely around 100. If his BG goes low during the night, he wakes up and raises it with fast-acting carbohydrates. Having T1 as a police officer makes some days more challenging, and it requires mental fortitude and caution. But he emphasizes not letting T1 stop you from pursuing your dreams.
It was the display on Casey’s phone that drew Officer Scola’s attention to Casey. The phone is an essential medical device for Casey, but to most people it’s just a phone. Few ever notice Casey’s insulin pump in its inconspicuous pouch at his waist or him using it discreetly to administer insulin. The rigors of managing T1 recede from public view as people become more adept at managing it, quietly and sight unseen. That Casey and others with T1 still smile, laugh and live life to the fullest also renders their difficult reality nearly invisible to others. Having such a kind-hearted and respected role model enter Casey’s life has deeply affected him. I know Casey will one day pay this gift forward.
I leave you with some of the many beautiful comments from the T1 community about Officer Scola: “What an absolute HERO!”, “I love this so much! Happy tears.”, “Way to go! Above and beyond.”, “This is the kind of story I want to read about!”, “Best read of the week!”, “Can’t love this enough!”, “A connection like that would have changed the life course of my Type 1 diabetic son.”, and “This! This is what life is about.”
Thank you, Officer Scola.
Lisa Seitles and her husband Sam are the owners of READ Preschool and Camp Tuscaloosa. They have four children and are active members of the community.