Izabella Edin is a fighter, and there is no doubt about that fact. Watching her during changeovers on the tennis court, you may be reminded of a prize fighter being treated by handlers between rounds.
At the Class 1A girls state tournament Friday, Izabella finished fourth among singles players. She played two matches Thursday and two more on Friday, closing the tournament with a 6-7 (1-7), 6-2, 6-2 loss to sophomore Katie Mulvey from Trinity School at River Ridge in the third-place match.
The senior from Staples-Motley was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes nearly two years ago. One key to dealing with diabetes is maintaining steady blood sugar counts, which is a big challenge for Edin.
The Staples-Motley coaches – head coach Kayla Janson and assistant Katie Edin (Izabella’s cousin) – rarely talk about tennis with her during changeovers. The discussion usually starts with something like this: “How do you feel?”
During the third-place match, there were times when both coaches were rubbing IcyHot cream on Izabella’s arms and legs as she battled cramps. An athletic trainer worked on her right arm – the arm that swings the racket – during changeovers.
After Friday’s awards ceremony, I asked Izabella how she was feeling.
“I’m super sore,” she said. “I feel like I’m going to cramp up any second if I move the wrong way. There’s a lot of IcyHot on my body.”
Izabella constantly checks her blood sugar during matches and carries an assortment of drinks and food items, all in an effort to maintain her blood sugar level. With Type I diabetes the pancreas does not produce insulin, which the body uses to deliver glucose from the bloodstream into the body’s cells and provide energy. If not managed properly, diabetes can be life-threatening.
During Friday’s tournament play, Izabella checked her blood sugar around 300 times, pricking a finger, placing a drop of blood on a test strip and inserting the test strip into a glucose monitor.
“I checked my blood sugar on every changeover,” she said. “I went through at least three bottles of strips today and there are a hundred strips in a bottle.”
She carried a bottle of Mountain Dew or strawberry soda with her on the court, placing it at the back wall and taking drinks when possible. Juice boxes and Rice Krispie bars are also normal supplies.
After the third-place match, I asked Izabella to talk me through it and how she felt along the way. Here are some highlights…
--After warming up, her blood sugar was very low (69). “Everything got really heavy in my limbs,” she said. After the first three games she drank some strawberry pop and Mountain Dew. “I was pretty out of it,” she said.
--The next check showed her blood sugar was 112 before dropping again to 80 (a normal count is between 90 and 140). She drank a lot of Mountain Dew but “I still felt really heavy and couldn’t really move well. … I was wanting to throw up from so much carbonation in me.”
--“My legs started cramping. I went for a forehand and my right calf, I couldn’t put any weight on it.” She won the first-set tebreaker 7-1, “which was a miracle. I couldn’t walk or move or anything. Every ball I got to I kind of teed off on. I had to finish the point before (Katie) could touch the ball.”
Later in the match her right hand began to cramp up. She took a 10-minute break to eat some pretzels and visit the restroom.
“It’s hard,” Katie Edin said. “I’m a counselor so I deal with high-stress situations. There’s always that concern, ‘How is she doing?’ But we stay calm. We reassure her that she will be OK.”
Kayla said, “We always check with her on changeovers, see where her numbers are.”
Opponents who are unaware of Izabella’s condition can be confused when they see her during changeovers.
“I don’t think they notice unless I take a medical timeout,” she said. “They’re looking to play tennis and I’m making sure I don’t pass out. They look at me and I’m physically fine. I get a lot of, ‘She looks fine, what’s wrong her?’ ”
Dealing with diabetes is a minute-by-minute concern.
“It’s never out of my mind,” Izabella said. “There’s not one second that it’s not a constant battle. I’ve gotten to the point where physically I can feel it, because I hit so often and do off-court training a lot. If I’m doing planks, for instance, I can feel my blood sugar (change). The feeling is running up and down my arms. My coaches will say, ‘You’ve got to go check because your blood sugar is high.’ It’s pretty obvious.
“If I run across the court and don’t get to a ball like usual, they’ll say, ‘Go drink some Mountain Dew, eat a Rice Krispie bar, check your blood sugar.’ ”
She remembers the date she was diagnosed (November 25, 2014). Her weight had fallen to 95 pounds and something was clearly wrong. It was a thunderbolt.
“It was really bad the first year, especially when you can still remember what it was like to eat without having to worry about anything,” Izabella said.
She didn’t play high school tennis last season, taking the time to train and rest. That was a great decision, she said.
“It was probably the most I improved in my whole tennis career. And it was probably the least stressful my diabetes has ever been. I wasn’t sitting on a court and checking my blood sugar 100 times. There was a lot less stress. I don’t regret taking that year off. I needed a break.”
While saying “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,” she and her teammates have found ways to have fun despite her condition.
When some of them first saw Izabella checking her blood sugar, they said, “I want to do that.” They also try to guess what her blood sugar count is when she’s taking a reading.
“They’ll guess during matches: ‘120, 130, 85.’ They were really good about it, really supportive about it,” Izabella said.
“One thing diabetes has taught me is that life is way more than just tennis,” she said. “I don’t play tennis, I play life on the tennis court.”
BY THE NUMBERS
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