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Rawson lives, plays with Type 1 diabetes

Toronto's senior linebacker explains how his condition, COVID-19 are not slowing him down

BATTLE — Toronto senior Jack Rawson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in December 2016. Despite the hereditary condition and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Rawson continues to play the game he loves, and nothing has slowed him down. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

TORONTO– When Jack Rawson was 13 years old and went outside on a random December day four years to get some water, his life changed forever.

The son of Nicole and Brian Rawson was found by his mother unconscious in the back yard and rushed him to the hospital. Rawson’s blood sugar level was skyrocketed. His family was afraid for his life.

Obviously, Rawson made it through and currently is preparing for his senior season as Toronto’s outside linebacker and fullback. However, since that day and after he came home from the hospital, Rawson has been living with Type 1 diabetes.

“It gets frustrating because I obviously do not want this. But, then you realize that it is your responsibility,” Rawson said. “It’s something you have to take care of yourself.”

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are mistakenly destroyed by the body’s immune system, according to jdrf.org. This type seems to have a genetic component and can be diagnosed early in life but also in adulthood. Its causes are not fully known, and there is currently no cure. People with this condition are dependent on injected or pumped insulin to survive.

Since it is a hereditary disorder, Rawson most likely had it since he was born. His father and older sister are Type 2 diabetics.

Before that hospital visit, there were warning signs. Rawson was becoming very fatigued with no appetite, and it was getting worse. Even after receiving a brain scan months prior, his blood sugar level was right where it needed to be.

The condition hit him as hard as he hits his opponents.

“When I was first diagnosed, I realized that sports were going to change a lot for me since diabetes is a full thing,” Rawson said. “At first, you think, ‘Oh man. I might not be able to play with it.’ But, once you learn and adapt to it, it becomes a lot easier but can also take a toll on your body. It can be the worst during sports because it affects your sugar levels.

“If you have faculty and staff members around you that understand it, then it is way better. It proves that you want to be there and come.”

Diabetes has not slowed Rawson down. In fact, it motivates him to work that much harder and stay healthier.

“In my 10 years of coaching, I’ve never been more worried about a player than I am about Jack Rawson,” Toronto head coach Josh Franke said. “Just seeing on a daily basis him having to sit out at times and where his levels are and knowing what he has to go through, it’s scary. You worry about your kids because you love your players like they’re your own kids.

“But, to see him not use that as an excuse to not play, not only do I think that exhibits a lot of courage on his part, but it also sets a really good example for the other kids that may be going through the same situation. There’s a valuable lesson you can learn from him.”

Franke has been Rawson’s coach since 2018 when Rawson was a sophomore. Before then, Rawson has spent a lot of time with trainer Jimmy Daily, who has been with the Red Knights since 2011.

Daily has been familiar in treating those with Type 1 diabetes from schooling and past experiences. Rawson’s, though, is unique.

“It really changed a lot from year to year since I met Jack,” he said. “His physicians are constantly tweaking things, especially this year with the whole shutdown. We are monitoring more on the highs and lows, and they can be extreme at any point. Jack does a good job himself of being educated regularly on his condition, but he needs more eyes on him now this year.”

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is not helping Rawson’s case either, but, instead, IS making it worse. Getting the virus while being a diabetic can be devastating.

With new regulations and protocols for high school athletes, the nine-minute water breaks required for practice actually work in Rawson’s favor. It allows Daily and others to help monitor Rawson more frequently.

“It’s a little scary because one of the five main conditions that can be affected by (the coronavirus) are diabetics,” Rawson said. “We try to be careful around here. We always wear our masks, wash our hands and keep our 6-feet distance.”

What also helps monitor Rawson is an app on his phone. He puts the monitor on his heart, waits a few moments for everything to calibrate and then he’s off. The app helps monitor his blood sugar level. If it gets too low or high, an alarm will go off on his and his parents’ phones.

If it goes off in the middle of the night, Rawson’s parents will wake him up. From there, he has to drink or eat something to bring the level down or up, depending on the situation.

“I’ve had kids with diabetes prior to Jack but never to the extent that he has it,” Franke said. “It’s a daily hurdle that he has to overcome. It’s really woken me up to diabetes and how it affects a person’s lifestyle.”

It’s not just COVID-19 everyone around Rawson has to worry about. It’s everything, including the smallest scratch. Rawson had to miss a game last year because of turf burn.

“Because of his diabetes, minor things that can happen to him compared to somebody else ends us being a big deal for him,” Franke said. “He’s more susceptible to infection more so than the average person.”

With all that Rawson must do to keep his levels down or raise them up, along with staying as healthy as he possibly can be, playing football might be on nobody else’s minds. Yet, Rawson is not like everyone else.

He is ready to play his senior season for the Toronto football team, as long as a season will occur. He is all in. Nothing is slowing down, not even the coronavirus. Everyone is on board if he is on board, and he always has been since that December day four years ago.

If former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler and Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews can do it, so can Rawson.

“There’s always that concern, but that decision is his,” Daily said. “As long as his physicians and parents are on the same page and both are comfortable with him being on the fence at risk, I’m just going by the prescription and the flow. I trust his medical team and parents for as far as decisions are concerned.”

“Jack Rawson loves football. He doesn’t play any other sport. This is his passion,” Franke said. “He’s been like my social media person this year because every time the governor or the OHSAA had anything new about COVID, Jack would screenshot it and send it to me. Jack has been extremely nervous on whether or not there will be a season.

“He’s 100 percent in. I don’t think he would trade it for anything in the world. He’s one of the biggest team players that we have, and he’s here for the right reasons.”

CHANGING IT UP

Since being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Rawson has changed his diet. He mainly intakes protein, eats more vegetables than before and is constantly drinking water, soda, Gatorades, etc.

Daily said the cooler he brings to practice could be enough to satisfy the entire team.

STARTER BY ACCIDENT

Franke remembers exactly when he became one of Rawson’s biggest fans.

It happened two years ago. Franke, in his first season with Toronto, had to find a replacement after one of his starting linebackers was injured during warmups.

“I went to my coaching staff and asked who’s next up? They said Jack Rawson. I was like, ‘There’s no way we can put him in that game. He’s a sophomore, he’s not ready and Southern Local is really good,'” Franke recalled. “We didn’t have any other options. Despite my reservations, we put him in there and led the team in tackles that night. He’s been a starter ever since.

“It just goes to show that us coaches don’t always know everything. He proved me wrong, and I’ve been a big fan ever since that day.”

LOOKING FORWARD

Franke mentioned that Rawson, who has not committed to a college yet, is getting Division II looks. Despite missing a game last year, Rawson forced nine turnovers and was one of the team’s leading tacklers.

“He’s one of, if not the, best defenders on our team,” Franke said.

FROM A DISTANCE

While Franke and Daily keep their watchful eyes on Rawson at all times, they are not the only two.

“Jimmy does a great job. He’s in constant contact with Jack’s parents who regularly monitor his levels,” Franke said. “They immediately contact Jimmy or one of our assistant coaches as soon as necessary. Jimmy does a phenomenal job of always being on top of it and always being there. I think he’s learned a lot about diabetes, too.

“It’s not just Jimmy. Our assistants play a huge role in this, as well, and our players, too. Our kids constantly ask about where his levels are at and if he needs anything. They really look out and care for him, as well. I think they also feel partly responsible just as much as anybody else does.”

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