Fort Mill teen with type I diabetes becomes an ambassador for the disease

November 5, 2012 

— Fort Mill High student stronger than diabetes

Special to the Fort Mill Times

Ethan Morse doesn’t let diabetes slow him down.

Active in marching band, tennis and skateboarding, the 15-year-old freshman at Fort Mill High School was diagnosed with type I diabetes, or juvenile diabetes, when he was in kindergarten.

“Physically, I can do whatever I want to do,” Morse said. “I have an insulin pump and have to take it off if I go on a roller coaster. I can’t spend the night at a friend’s house, because I have to check my insulin during the night. I haven’t slept an entire night in eight years.”

Juvenile diabetes means you become insulin dependent because the pancreas does not produce insulin on its own.

“It didn’t run in our family and came completely out of the blue,” said his mother, LeAnne Morse.

“When he was 6, I noticed he was really thirsty and remembered that is a sign of diabetes. I had him checked at the pediatrician and his blood sugar was 597. Blood sugar levels are supposed to be between 70 and 90.”

After Ethan was diagnosed, LeAnne had to re-learn how she cared for her son, she said.

“It’s compared to bringing home a new baby. You have to learn how to feed your child and immediately trained by nurses to how to give insulin shots and check blood sugar,” she said. “Your child is constantly getting stuck with needles. It’s stressful and life changing.”

Ethan didn’t fully understand the changes at first.

“When I was diagnosed, I thought the hospital was kind of fun,” he said. “When I got back to school in kindergarten, I started to get treated differently because of my diabetes, but not in a bad way. People would ask me how my blood sugar was, and I didn’t really understand. In first grade, one of my teachers would set an alarm clock to remind me when to check my blood sugar. Now I can check it during class as long as I am not disruptive.”

Ethan has to be conscious of what he eats, but his food choices aren’t as limited as some may think, he said.

“Having diabetes, people think you can’t eat certain things, but that’s not entirely true,” he said. “Some foods have an effect on me more than others. If I eat pasta, my blood sugar will go higher than if I have a ham sandwich. There aren’t foods I can’t eat, I just have to pick out what I eat depending on my activity level and my blood sugar.”

Ethan has used diabetes to be an inspiration to others. Morse was the Fund-A-Cure Champion and Junior Ambassador for the Palmetto branch of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

“Ethan has met with members of Congress and been to congressional meetings to explain what it is like to have Type I diabetes,” LeAnne said. “He also goes to the hospital and meets with younger kids to let them know that he knows what it’s like to be sick.”

Though Ethan has to sit out a few minutes during marching band or tennis, and can’t sleep through the night without checking his blood sugar, he remembers other children who suffer from other diseases.

“When I think about how diabetes could possibly slow me down, I remember I don’t have it that bad,” Ethan said.

“There are kids my age who have cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Diabetes is extremely debilitating, but I still find a way to come out strong.”

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