PORT WILLIAMS, N.S - Hayden Whynot was dubbed a warrior at the tender age of nine.
The Kings County resident is a T1D warrior. Now 10, Hayden is developing a knack for telling people exactly what that means.
T1D stands for type 1 diabetes, an illness Hayden was diagnosed with in January.
His mother, Leigh-Anne Whynot, noticed Hayden wasn’t quite feeling like himself after the holidays last year, and took him to their family doctor thinking her son had strep throat and a bladder infection.
Testing revealed that Hayden’s blood sugar levels were 33, far off from the ideal readings between four and 10.
“Hayden’s body attacked his pancreas,” explains Whynot, who noted that the timing of the doctor visit was crucial as Hayden could have gone unconscious and been admitted to the IWK in Halifax if the root cause of his symptoms went undetected much longer.
The minutes, days, weeks and months following the diagnosis came with a steep learning curve. Hayden has both asked and answered questions about carb counting, finger pokes and insulin pumps to the point that he’s somewhat of an expert on the topic of managing his diabetes.
In fact, he’s so well versed in the subject that he opted to do a presentation for his classmates at Port Williams Elementary School for World Diabetes Day Nov. 14.
“I was just trying to do mostly information about it, mostly about what I experience,” he said.
“Every time I do something someone is always asking me a question about it and now everyone knows what’s going on.”
The presentation talked about the symptoms Hayden experiences as a result of high or low blood sugar, and the tools that help him manage his diabetes. For example, the continuous glucose monitor he uses 24/7 checks his blood every five minutes and produces results Whynot can view from an app on her phone.
“The teacher said everyone was really interested,” said Hayden.
The Whynot family turned to a diabetic clinic at Kentville’s Valley Regional Hospital for direction following the unexpected diagnosis.
“I had no idea what we were getting into when we went to see our family doctor… for us, it’s really put into perspective what matters,” said Whynot.
“Last year when I wasn’t diagnosed I didn’t even know that there was such a thing,” Hayden added.
The news brought on a wide range of emotions, but Hayden’s learned how to take things day by day and continue doing what he loves.
“When we first came home it was really overwhelming but we’ve been learning new things as we go and finding what works for us – and he’s doing a great job,” said Whynot.
Hayden, an aspiring hockey star, is on the ice four to five times a week. The stalwart defender plays hockey all year as a member of the Nova Scotia Stars and Acadia Atom AA hockey teams.
A warrior in his battle against diabetes and in the hockey arena, Hayden has some advice for other kids learning how to live with type 1 diabetes.
“I would tell them not to worry,” he said.
“Don’t worry too much about if you’re blood’s high or if you’re blood’s low… now that I have my Dexcom, my pump and my mom… I can mostly do anything.”
For the parents, Whynot says every single day is different and a one-step-at-a-time approach has helped them cope.
“In the beginning there’s just so much and it’s so overwhelming and it’s just so scary,” she said, adding that it didn’t take long for them to understand why folks with Hayden’s diagnosis are called T1D warriors.
“It’s an illness that you can’t not think about every day.”
Hayden, who is assisted by EAs at school when he manages his sugar levels, is happy to do more presentations for his classes in the future if there’s a need for it. He suspects he’ll likely have some curious classmates when he moves on to middle school, but he’ll see how things go beyond that point.
“When I get to high school I have to do it all by myself, so all they have to know is that I have diabetes - and that’s it.”