Under crisp, clear conditions, described as almost perfect for road racing, more than 11,000 runners from 40 countries recently descended on Staten Island for the annual New York Road Runners-sponsored half marathon. One of the participants was Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center patient, 12-year-old Paul Heck, who finished his first half marathon (13.1 miles) in 2:05.19.
Paul, an outgoing 8th grader who lives on Staten Island, ran the race wearing his insulin pump, a Continuous Glucose Meter (CGM)—and alongside 59-year-old Gus Stanzione who acted as his chaperone. Because Paul has type 1 diabetes (T1D) he qualified as a handicapped athlete and was entitled to a partner in case of emergency. Paul ran (armed with a pocket full of gummy bears) without a hitch and even managed to sprint to the finish line. “He said it was one of the best days of his life,” reports his mother Kathleen, a nurse. “He loves to run.”
With the help of his parents and the blessing of his caregivers at the Berrie Center, Paul, who was diagnosed at age three, ran his first race—a four-mile run—when he was 9. Today, he is a member of the Staten Island Athletic Club (SIAC) and a regular on the local road-racing scene, placing fifth in his age group in a recent series of events called the Triple Crown.
Paul is yet another shining example of a normal kid (except for his T1D) with an extraordinary accomplishment. “There is nothing that a child with diabetes can’t do,” said pediatric endocrinologist Barney Softness, MD, Paul’s doctor. “Where there’s imagination and inclination, there’s a way.” “Start with small goals,” advised Paul to other kids with diabetes who may want to follow a dream, like he did. “And always be prepared.”
(Photo Courtesy of the Staten Island Advance/Derek Alvez)