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May 31st, 2011
01:34 PM ET

Human Factor: Indy car racing with diabetes

In the Human Factor we profile people who have overcome the odds against them. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship –- they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed.   On Sunday, J.R. Hildebrand would have been the 9th rookie to win the Indianapolis 500, had he not crashed in the final turn of the race. He was passing another rookie, Charlie Kimball, at the time. Kimball ended up in 13th place but that's not the end of  his story.  This week , Kimball shares how his life has changed since he was diagnosed with diabetes.   Here is his story in his own words.

I have the greatest job in the world!

While I am definitely pumped to get up each morning and go to the “office” and do what I do – mainly driving a race car – there is another side of my job that brings me great joy and that is having the honor of meeting members of the global diabetes community each time I go to work.

The diabetes community is a group of men, women and children who I didn’t even know existed before I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2007.  There are 24 million of us in the U.S. alone and the connection among people living with diabetes is stronger than I think anyone realizes.

I have no diabetes history in my family and when I was diagnosed I thought there was a simple fix – like taking a pill or something to make it go away.   Fortunately, I have met a number of great people along the way, including a wonderful team at my sponsor, who have helped me a great deal.

Living with diabetes probably looks easier to those who do not have the disease, but I think that perception is more of a result of the proper management of diabetes than the severity of it.  Diabetes is a real and serious disease.  But just because you have it, does not mean you have to limit your dreams.

I have promised myself I will not let diabetes slow me down.

We all have tough days, and for me, most of mine involve the unpredictability of my diabetes management.  Sometimes you feel it is just a moving target always changing and evolving.  And, I think most people with diabetes will tell you it definitely keeps you on your toes.  But, hey, no one ever said it was going to be easy.

I am fortunate to get to meet with people living with diabetes every day I am at a race track.  From children in Brazil, to race fans in Birmingham and Baltimore, we seem to have a special connection.  These are the moments I live for and the times when I truly appreciate the talents I have been given.  I see the challenges in their eyes and they see mine.  But nothing helps me keep my job in perspective more than spending time with a child who has just been diagnosed.  Often we don’t even need to say a word – we just know what each other is going through.  It’s just understood.

I wish I had the luxury of being able to spend an unlimited amount of time with each person I meet, but that just isn’t possible.   So I am going to live with the memories – the thoughts of those I have and have yet to meet.  You might say we are in this together.

I live my life at a very fast pace and I am used to doing a lot in a short amount of time.  It's part of who I am and a big part of what I do.  Rest assured each time I put on my helmet and drop down into my race car, I know I have the best job in the world and it’s a privilege to have so many good friends along for the ride.


soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. tammy h

    Its hard to make the diet choices and changes you have to make. Esspecially when you dont have the time or the money to get what you need to eat. I have type 2. Have been since 2005.

    May 31, 2011 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Dave

    Keep going fast, Mr. Kimball! I hit my 30 year anniversary of my Type I diagnosis this past January. Diagnosed at the ripe old age of 11 years. I played football through high school and continue to be very active to this day (motorcycle, boating, skydiving, etc.). Diabetes makes these things more challenging but far from impossible. May your A1C always be as good as your driving skill! :)

    May 31, 2011 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. STEPHANIE

    Thx for this article-my daughter was diagnosed April 7 of this years and we always love to hear or read how some ppl overcome this disease!!! My daughter is my hero now-she takes 4 shots daily and doesnt even flinch!!! The Dr's are really pushing that a cure will be within 10 years for juvenille diabetes!!!

    May 31, 2011 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • EdM

      Steph
      I have been a type 1 diabetic for over 20 years... My doc told me they will never cure diabetes, there is way too much money in treating sick people..

      June 1, 2011 at 10:23 | Report abuse |
  4. Don

    I would like to add to Mr. Kimball's comments – keep going! I agree, there is nothing like helping others see that a diagnosis of diabetes is NOT the end of the world. I was diagnosed at age 3 with Type 1, and that was 55 years ago. I still have all of my toes, have a WONDERFUL family, friends, a gratifying career, and most importantly, a loving and supportive wife!
    I take around 7 – 8 shots each day, check my blood sugar level as often, and give no thought to it – it is as natural as breathing.
    I needed to have a triple bypass 2 years ago, and the doctors released me from the hospital in better condition than many non-diabetics! Several of the physician's commented that I was the inspirational topic of discussion during the daily rounds, and in the doctor's lounge.
    There are things I need to do differently, but common sense goes a LONG way!! As I mentioned, it's not the end of the world – it's just a different perspective!

    May 31, 2011 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RM

      Hats off to you and all those that refuse to let this disease slow you down, I am in the same group. I was Dx as a Type-II nearly four years ago at age 50. Also being 50 pounds overweight with high cholesterol I was a walking time bomb my doctor said.

      I got serious about this disease, got off the couch, lost 40 of those 50 pounds and turned into a long distance runner. Getting out of bed at 4:00am to go run in marathons was never my idea of fun, but it is now. Running and weight lifting has been my medicine to keep my BG levels in the healthy range. So far I have not had to take any medication for diabetes, I control it with diet and exercise and have kept my FBG under 100mg/dl and A1c down in the 5% range.

      June 1, 2011 at 14:31 | Report abuse |
  5. Dirk

    I'm coming up on my 40 anniversary for Type 1, was diagnosed at age 5. I completed three college degrees and have traveled the world–sometimes alone! It's great to hear from someone else who is not letting the disease slow him down (literally!) or keep him from doing what he loves to do. It's not easy to manage diabetes, but it can be done successfully with enough effort and help from professionals.

    June 1, 2011 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. unowhoitsme

    Type 1 is not curable, but can be regulated through diet. Type 2 is self-induced and is totally preventative and curable through diet. Our daughter had a blood sugar of 450. In two weeks we were able to lower her sugar to 125 through lean proteins, fresh vegetables, 2 low glycemic fruits, and low glycemic carbs. It's possible to do! Just takes discipline not to eat junk food.

    June 1, 2011 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • momofT1

      @unowhoitsme, NOT all type 2 is self-induced! There is an enormous genetic component to type 2 – just ask all the lean, thin people who have it. There are plenty of people who have never been overweight and never ate junk food, yet have been dx'd with Type 2 later in life. As far as type 1 goes, congratulations on being able to help your child maintain a lower blood glucose level. However, you need to remember that in true type 1 diabetes, NO insulin is produced and eventually has to be replaced exogenously. Perhaps your child is in the honeymoon period of type 1 and has very low requirements for insulin or is still producing enough to get by, or doesn't have Type 1 at all. The hallmark of Type 1 is that the insulin-producing cells are destroyed by the immune system, requiring either injected or pumped insulin. My daughter lives with type 1 and it SUCKS; she doesn't need to be blamed for her condition, and neither does any other person with diabetes, whether it's Type 1 or Type 2 (or MODY, or LADA, or gestational, or any other type of diabetes). That's Charlie's point – you go forth with your life and you don't let diabetes stop you – but no one who lives with diabetes needs finger-pointing, especially from someone within the d-community.

      June 1, 2011 at 19:49 | Report abuse |
    • RM

      I think you need to do some more research into Type-II, it's definitely NOT self induced. Just because Type-II can be managed with a healthy lifestyle does not mean an unhealthy lifestyle caused the disease. The genetics that cause Type-II is there no matter what lifestyle one chooses to live. Look at all the overweight, non-healthy eaters, that don't exercise, smoke and don't have diabetes.

      June 1, 2011 at 21:07 | Report abuse |
  7. u. R. Idiots

    There are many factors in type 2 diabeates. To say its self induced is careless and shows you dont understand it.

    June 2, 2011 at 04:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. BD

    This article was Godsent for me and can't wait to share with my 16 year old son who has been a warrior of diabetes since age 10. Adolescence has brought some challenging moments for both of us. Inspiring stories of strength, courage and resolve like this one helps these kids see their own future clearly. Especially because juvenile disease robs them somewhat of their childhood. I am thankful for the scientific discovery of insulin and pray for future advances that help with easier management and decreased complications.

    June 2, 2011 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jeff

    Congrats to Charlie for showing what can be done while managing Type 1 Diabetes. I am Type 1 also, and raced on short tracks for 11 years. I will be going to Charlotte Motor Speedway next week to do the Nascar Racing Experience, should be a blast. Charlie's achievement is very inspirational.

    June 3, 2011 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. wayne

    In his interview he mentioned a continuous blood sugar monitoring device that transmits wireless to a monitor....My wife has had diebeties for 9 years and I have never heard of anything like this. Hope to hear more about that device.

    June 4, 2011 at 17:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. F

    Besides an operation, shots or stretching what can be done to cure Peyronies Disease and what is the usual outcome. Are there any pills one can take?

    Thank You

    June 14, 2011 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. johnpg502

    Car racing is very famous around the world. Now days more and more youngster are attracted towards car racing. There some very good performance car parts which gave give good boost to your vehicle.

    http://www.prospeedracing.com.au/categories/Suspension/

    June 11, 2013 at 03:47 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.