Mackenzie Paris loves to play hockey, but it isn’t always easy balancing diabetes with the sport he loves.
Paris will learn more about managing his diabetes and learn some valuable hockey skills in early August when he attends a Dskate Camp in Ottawa.
“It can be hard sometimes, my sugars will either get really high or really low when I’m playing and I have to go off the ice,” said the 12-year-old Amherst boy. “My mom usually knows when something’s wrong and she has come to the bench to take me off.”
Paris was just four years old when his mother, Stephanie Bird, noticed something was off. After going to the doctor several times, she insisted that he be checked for diabetes. She sensed something was going on with her son’s health.
He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and sent to hospital to get his blood sugar under control.
While he’s equipped with an insulin pump that automatically checks his sugars and regulates how much insulin he needs, there are moments when he knows his sugars are either really high or very low.
“I get really tired and hungry,” he said. “I try to have something to eat before a game or practice and I always have juice on hand if my sugar gets too low.”
Fortunately, he has done a good job of maintaining his sugars, but said it can be difficult to balance diabetes, being 12 and active in sports.
Only 100 children, ages seven to 17, are admitted to the camp that runs from Aug. 5 to 9.
The Dskate Hockey Program focuses on skill development and all elements to be a better hockey player. There are skating, passing, shooting and stickhandling drills, just like any other hockey school.
What’s different is its diabetes education program that provides information on managing Type 1 diabetes and well as nutritional support and carb-counting programs. There is also programming for parents on how to help their children manage their diabetes while being active in hockey.
“I think it will be good for him because it will help him learn how other kids cope,” Bird said.
This is the second time, Paris has attended a Dskate camp. He got to attend one in Toronto when he was nine and was selected to go to the August camp in Ottawa. He’s also hoping to meet diabetes advocate and Montreal Canadiens forward Max Domi, who was diagnosed with diabetes at age 12.
Domi is just one of many successful athletes who have balanced sports and diabetes. Cory Conacher has played in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch and the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning while Bobby Clarke was a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1970s.
Kaapo Kakko, who was drafted second overall by the New York Rangers in June’s NHL draft, is also a Type 1 diabetic and has celiac disease.
If he meets Domi, it would be the second NHL star he would have skated with. Several years ago, he attended the Sidney Crosby hockey school in Cole Harbour.