By Marianne Kligman
LITTLE SILVER – Jack McMahon always wanted to participate in a team sport in school.
When he entered fifth grade, the Junior Buc Wrestling signs that dotted his Little Silver neighborhood caught his eye just about the same time his neighbor, a volunteer wrestling coach, caught his ear. Soon, Jack began to play in club wrestling as well as the Junior Bucs program.
As a freshman at Red Bank Regional High School (RBR) this past year, he was delighted to realize his dream and wrestle for the Buccaneers. During his athletic season, however, he started experiencing lethargy, excessive thirst and hunger, symptoms that might affect any growing teenager in high school. However, in early May when he complained about blurred vision, alarm bells sounded for his mother who, ironically, is a pharmaceutical sales rep with a specialty in diabetes.
In late May, the McMahon family received the unexpected diagnosis that affects only 5 percent of people afflicted with diabetes: Jack had Type 1 diabetes or juvenile diabetes. He would have to inject insulin to control his blood sugar for the rest of his life.
In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce any insulin, the hormone that breaks down starches and sugars in the blood so the body can turn them into energy to sustain life. It is different than Type 2 diabetes, which affects the vast majority of diabetics and can be improved with diet and weight loss since insulin is still produced but not at adequate levels.
Jack was admitted to the hospital for a diabetic “boot camp” to learn how to reorder his life and transform his diet in order to accommodate his illness. Instrumental to his diabetic management was learning the science of counting carbohydrates and then adjusting his insulin level to keep his body in balance.
There is no doubt that Jack’s life has changed. No longer can he go out with the guys for pizza or ice cream. For the most part, however, he has learned to live with his new normal.
“My friends and family have been great and I adjust for what I can and cannot do,” he said.
Most importantly for him was that he wanted to continue to wrestle. That required an additional sacrifice. He could not opt for a preferable method of receiving insulin through a pump, which automatically adjusts and slowly delivers the hormone directly into the blood stream. So Jack must self-inject his insulin four times a day, 28 times a week.
His mom, Christen Egan McMahon, who attends every wrestling event, said, “If he was receiving insulin through a pump, we could only have disconnected it up to one hour, and a wrestling match could go four to five hours. So that wasn’t an option.”
Amazingly, less than three months after his diagnosis and diabetic-management training, Jack competed in the Buc Classic a summer wrestling tournament at RBR where he took third place in his weight class.
He also participated in a summer wrestling tournament fundraiser, Pin Cancer, to help raise money for cancer research, a disease affecting his father.
He continued his fundraising activities through the summer, this time for his own ailment. He created Jack’s Tracks to participate in the Step Out: Princeton NJ Walk, sponsored by the American Diabetes Association (ADA). It will be held on Oct. 20 in Plainsboro.
To raise money for his cause, Jack marshaled his teenage social media prowess along with some marketing savvy by encouraging the public to donate $28 – $1 dollar for each injection of insulin he must give himself a week.
He has raised more than $1,000 and is on his way to reaching his $2,500 goal. His success earned him recognition as the Face of ADA for the month of July as the top team fundraiser.
“Of course, I am hoping that the funds with someday lead to a cure for diabetes, but until then, research can help make the life of a Type 1 diabetic a little easier,” he said.
Anyone wishing to contribute to Jack’s fundraising goal should visit his team at: main.diabetes.org/site/TR/ StepOut/StepOutAdmin?pg=entry&fr_id=9133; go to Join a Team and register for Jack’s Tracks.