Originally Published: October 8, 2011 9:55 p.m.
Sam Winters is on a whirlwind of media engagements this week, stumping for a cause - diabetes.
The 10-year-old aims to get the word out about the annual Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes on Oct. 15 in Prescott.
The Liberty Elementary School fifth-grader, with hazel eyes, a tinge of red in his hair and the only one among his siblings who has freckles, suddenly became ill when he was 9 years old.
"He got really sick," said his sister, Vicki, 19. "We thought he had the flu." But, symptoms persisted over a two-week period. He dropped from 75 pounds to 63 pounds, became dehydrated and frequently vomited, she said. "He was really sick," and almost went into a diabetic coma when his mother, Bonnie, took him to Yavapai Regional Medical Center's emergency room. Doctors quickly diagnosed diabetes, Vicky said, and Sam was soon on his way by ambulance to Phoenix Children's Hospital where he stayed for four days.
Now, weighing a healthy 83 pounds, Sam, his mother, father Michael, brother Joe and sisters Vicky, Rachel, Rebekah and Elizabeth are all learning about and coping with his Type 1 diabetes.
Being sure that Sam has his insulin shots and regularly checks his blood sugar levels is a family effort, Vicky said, and his older sisters and parents are diligent about his eating habits, which have had to change since his diabetes diagnosis.
"The hard part is not letting him eat whatever he wants," Vicky said.
Sisters Vicky and Rachel both plan to take part in the Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes. Vicky is organizing a team with her Yavapai College Honors Program, inviting the whole school to become involved. The public is welcome to participate, too, as a sponsor or a walker. Those interested in helping can go to her website, http://main.diabetes.org/goto/YCHonorsProgram2011.
Rachel, a student at Tri-City Prep, is coordinating a team of her classmates for the walk.
The walk takes place on the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Reservation, and starts and finishes at the tribe's Gathering Center, 530 E. Merritt St., Prescott. Check-in time for the 5K Fun Run is 6:30 a.m. for the 7 a.m. start. Check-in time for the .7-, 1.3- and 4-mile walks is 7:45 a.m. and start time is 9 a.m. For more information, visit www.diabetes.org/stepoutprescott.
"Walking is fun," Vicky said. It's a chance to meet people and share stories about their diabetes diagnoses, she added. "It's a bond and it raises money for research."
At first, Sam was pretty sad when he learned he had diabetes, and, he didn't like the idea of getting shots every day.
Now, "I'm getting used to it," he said. "If they find a cure, it's 'Goodbye, diabetes.' I hope so anyway."
Even though he's looking forward to having an insulin pump soon, which will make his life easier, he's hardly letting his diabetes freeze him in his tracks.
He would like to go into the Army when he's old enough, and he would like to be a martial arts teacher. But, in the meantime, he plans to play soccer with his AYSO Red Knights next season, he likes to play basketball, and he's hoping to do track again this coming spring. And, he added, "I really want to do flag football." He likes to run, because it gets his blood sugar down, he said, "and it's better than sitting on a couch eating Twinkies."
His friends have been supportive of him, too, Sam said, mentioning Corey in particular, because he never fails to accompany him to the nurse's office for his blood sugar level check before lunch and his insulin shot after.