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Swiss tournament a welcome change Allison K. Sampite | Fri, Sep 03 2010 12:00 PM

Chula Vista resident Gloria Valadez and her 11-year-old son Joseph returned from Switzerland Aug. 26 with memories they will never forget.

Joseph was one of 230 soccer players selected to represent the United States internationally, making his first appearance in the International Diabetes Soccer Tournament.

During the weekend of Aug. 20, players from 18 countries participated in the fourth annual Junior Cup in Geneva, Switzerland.

Other than trips to Mexico, Joseph had not been out of the country before.

"We really had no idea what to expect," Valadez said. "We were really excited-we were in shock that we were going."

Joseph said the opportunity to participate was important because it allowed him to interact with other kids who live with the same disease.

"The most fun part was meeting other kids with diabetes," he said. "We played four games against the UK, Poland, Sweden, and Hungary."

Valadez said it was a welcomed change for her son to be in a place where diabetes was the norm.

The event was divided into three age groups, with Joseph participating in the 10-14 year old bracket.

The cost of the trip-which included lodging, transportation and meals-was free for Joseph and one parent.

Before Joseph was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, Valadez said she knew something was wrong, relating his lethargy to her grandmother's symptoms from type 2 diabetes.

"He was extremely thirsty all the time," she said. "He wasn't his energetic self."

After taking him to the doctor and getting a urine ketone test done, they found he had diabetes. "But as soon as they gave him the first insulin shot, he was back to normal," Valadez said.

These days Valadez weighs the perfect amount of food and drink for her son on a digital scale.

Valadez said the first year was difficult emotionally. "It took a year for us to convince him that he wasn't going to die," she said. "Sometimes he would hide from us ... it was like he was looking at me saying 'please don't hurt me,'" Valadez said choking back tears.

"It hard to live with because it's in my body," Joseph said.

But by the time he was five and a half, Joseph could take a shot by himself with his right hand and a year later, mastered injections with his left. Today, Joseph understands that this is his norm living with the disease.

Although Joseph enjoys soccer, he has his sights set on something else for when he grows up. "I'm thinking of teaching surfing," Joseph said. "And I want to be a professional volleyball player."

Joseph is also one of the top math students in his class.

Valadez said every once in a while, she will throw her son a "sugar party" to celebrate.

"I don't limit him to certain food," she said.

"But we have worked on knowing what he needs. One thing we cannot back down on is the finger pokes and checking his blood sugar." Valadez said this takes place 10 to 13 times a day or up to 20 on a busy day.

Even though the team finished 14th out of 15 in the division, Valadez said this experience was a positive event that came from undesirable circumstances. "He is a very confident child."




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