Sebastian Bishop is transforming the fear he experienced when diagnosed with diabetes into a potential career choice, aspiring to help young diabetics cope with the disease.
“I want to be an endocrinologist so I can help kids with diabetes, because it’s a lot to handle at the beginning,” the 14-year-old Onalaskan said.
If he follows that career path, he may become a hero to those youngsters.
For now, Bishop, who will be a freshman at Onalaska High School this fall, is a star of another sort — designated as one of five heroes for the Children’s Miracle Network’s annual $100,000 fundraiser through the Gundersen Medical Foundation.
They were announced Tuesday during the annual “Race to 100K Radiothon Kick Off,” in the run-up to the Oct. 23-25 radiothon.
Bishop recalls the circumstances surrounding his diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes: “I was in the fourth grade, right before Halloween. I was surprised, and I had no idea what it was, so I was scared.”
Finding out that he would have to get several insulin shots a day did nothing to assuage the fear, he said, adding, “That was pretty intense, partly because I’ve never been a big fan of needles.”
The idea also intimidated his mom, Laura, who administered the shots.
“I didn’t think I could do something like that,” she said.
His dad, Bill, is an emergency room doctor at Gundersen Health System who has Type 1.5 diabetes, also known as latent onset, diagnosed about six months after Sebastian's.
Bill acknowledged that his wife is the diabetes manager of the household, saying, “Laura’s done such a good job that they don’t really need me. His mom does all the work and is very nurturing.”
The Bishops, who also have a 6-year-old daughter, Ophelia, suspected Sebastian might have diabetes when he started exhibiting typical signs such as frequent urination, thirst and lack of concentration.
“Sebastian always had been very good at school, but he was having trouble writing papers, and he was drinking a crazy amount of water,” Laura said.
In school, he asked to be excused to go to the restroom so often that “his teacher was actually going to tell him he couldn’t go any more” because she thought he was trying to dodge classes, she said.
After Sebastian's diagnosis, the disease resulted in the ironic combination of disrupting the family’s schedule at the same time it created a strict regimen marked by blood sugar testing, shots and monitoring food intake, the Bishops said.
“At first, you have to plan your day around it,” said Sebastian, who has more flexibility now because he wears a pump that dispenses the insulin automatically.
“It’s a pretty big improvement, considering you have just one insertion every three days,” he said.
“Measuring the food helps,” Laura said. “It really does give you a concept of healthier eating.”
Sebastian says he considers it an honor to be a CMN hero, and he welcomes the chance to be an ambassador because of the assistance CMN has provided him, including covering the costs of his annual attendance at diabetic camp.
“It’s fun because you don’t feel out of place when you’re checking your blood sugar because everybody else is, too,” he said.
Sebastian doesn’t let the malady deter him from some of his favorite activities or volunteering to help disabled children in sports programs at the YWCA.
A saxophone player, Sebastian also has a purple belt in karate, swims and runs cross country and other track events.
“I prefer the 200-meter hurdles,” he said, “because I feel like I’m flying.”
Asked what advice he might give to a newly diagnosed diabetic, Sebastian said, “I’d definitely say one thing — it definitely gets better. You get used to pricking yourself and managing your blood sugar.”