May 5, 2009

Friday's Diabetes Awareness Day Means More to Doug Hansen

May 5, 2009

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - For UC Santa Barbara catcher Doug Hansen, Friday's game vs. Long Beach State will take on even more meaning than the opener of a weekend series between Big West rivals.

"I think people are a lot more aware of diabetes," Hansen said, "but they don't understand what you have to do as a diabetic."

That's part of the reason for Friday's Diabetes Awareness Day at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium as Hansen - along with several others - will be honored before the 2 p.m. game. Hansen developed type 1 diabetes when he was three years old and as a Division I athlete, must frequently stay on top of his eating regimen.

Sparked by five-year-old Kyle DeSchryver, a T-Ball player from Arroyo Grande who also has type 1 diabetes, as well as a UCSB research team that developed the artificial pancreas for type 1 diabetics, the UCSB Athletics Department is proud to support Diabetes Awareness Day.

Friday's events kicks off a great weekend both at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium and Campus Diamond, called "Diamond Days." Purchasing a ticket to a baseball game will gain fans free entry to softball games and vice versa. For more information on all the weekend's events, please click here.

Hansen, a junior from Redwood City, Calif., must spend extra time focusing on what he consumes more than most college students and because he is constantly active - participating in three-hour practices or on game days and has to prepare accordingly.

"The biggest thing for me is to always be prepared going into a day," Hansen said. "I know the activity level for a practice, for a game, so I know these activity levels during a day. I know how these activity levels change me, so I know how to account for these different levels. A good way to keep control is to develop a routine each day and knowing my activity level every day."

So when his buddies want to order a dessert following a meal, or go and gorge themselves on pizza, Hansen must think twice about it.

"I eat a lot of pizza, I can hang with anybody in that category," he said. "But if I eat a lot, I have to take a lot of insulin to account for it."

When he does go out to eat Hansen usually sticks to certain meals or inquires about the amount of carbohydrates in what he may order. When the Gaucho baseball team stops on road trips at a fast food restaurant, Hansen asks for a nutrition guide to monitor the carb levels.

"I stick to certain meals and I've gotten good at memorizing things," he says. "I have built up a database in my head so I can look at food and get a feel for it. ... To pack for a trip somewhere, or before I go somewhere I have to think about a meal plan, or do I have enough insulin? I have to do certain things just a little differently."

Helping type 1 diabetics, such as Hansen and DeSchryver - who will throw out the first pitch on Friday - is the UCSB research team that successfully created a computer-simulated system for evaluating an investigational artificial pancreas.

According to Dr. Alison Okada Wollitzer, the Director of Research Administration and Operations at the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, "The Artificial Pancreas Project is a collaborative research project between the Chemical Engineering Department at UCSB and the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute. The project is part of a multi-center effort funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to find a mechanical cure for type 1 diabetes through the development of an artificial pancreas. The UCSB/Sansum team has led the effort to develop a platform to automatically deliver the correct amount of insulin to patients throughout the day and night."

To read more on the UCSB research team's efforts, please click here.

Eventually their research can help type 1 patients, but for now Hansen has to continually monitor his blood sugar level. He wears an insulin pump, which helps maintain his blood sugar in between meals. During games, he tucks the pump behind his left hip.

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler also uses an insulin pump, according to Hansen, but removes his during games so it doesn't get crushed if he takes a hit.

According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse Web site, "people can get diabetes at any age. Type 1 diabetes is usually first diagnosed in children, teenagers, or young adults. With this form of diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas no longer make insulin because the body's immune system has attacked and destroyed them. Treatment for type 1 diabetes includes taking insulin and possibly another injectable medicine, making wise food choices, being physically active and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol.

"Type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult-onset diabetes or noninsulin-dependent diabetes, is the most common form of diabetes. ... This form of diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which fat, muscle, and liver cells do not use insulin properly. At first, the pancreas keeps up with the added demand by producing more insulin. In time, however, it loses the ability to secrete enough insulin in response to meals. Being overweight and inactive increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes."

Hansen sees his diabetes physician once every six months for check-ups and makes the point that there is no umbrella rulebook for living with diabetes because "it's a personal thing and everybody's different."

But, without the help of his mother, Janet, or his grandmother, Joan, he wouldn't be able to manage it the way he has been, or to have been as active as he has been. Before becoming a Gaucho, Hansen was the catcher at College of San Mateo, helping the team win North Coast Conference titles in his freshman and sophomore seasons. Named to the San Mateo All-County Team as a catcher at Juniperro Serra High, Hansen also played football and was named to the All-County Second Team.

Janet Hansen monitored her son's insulin levels until he was about 12, accompanying him on doctor's visits and teaching him how to deal with his diabetes.

"My grandma raised my two aunts with type 1, so she helped my mom and she raised me on it," said Hansen, whose mother would chaperone field trips while he was in school so she could keep an eye on his blood sugar levels when he was younger. "My mom did really well with me and helped me manage diabetes."