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[IP] Check out Cases: Diabetic's Olympian Triumph

Here is the article in case you are unable to click on it.   <A 
HREF="http://partners.nytimes.com/2000/10/31/science/31CASE.html">Click here: 
Cases: Diabetic's Olympian Triumph</A> Cases: Diabetic's Olympian Triumph

Donald Miralle/ Allsport  
Gary Hall Jr., victorious in Sydney.  


t is late in the evening. I am standing on the observation platform of the 
warm up pool at the Olympic Natatorium in Sydney. I am with eight other 
people, family members of Gary Hall Jr.

We see him coming toward us. Tall, with tousled wet hair, moving as though 
exhausted but with a grin that explodes across his face. We encircle him, one 
by one embracing him. From his pocket he unobtrusively pulls out a gold 
medal. We take turns holding it. We are crying.

How did I get here? Me, who rarely reads the sports section or watches a 
sporting event. I got to the Olympics by being a doctor, and diabetes is my 

As I have practiced medicine, I have found that one heals by learning how to 
apply technology and love in equal measure. The traditional "godlike" 
physician no longer holds much sway in this world of managed-care. Moreover, 
the more patients question, the more they learn and become involved in their 
own health. Physicians need to encourage this interest, incorporating the 
patient as a partner in their health care.

Gary Hall Jr. exemplifies this approach. Halfway between the Atlanta and 
Sydney Olympics he developed Type 1 diabetes. He had won two gold and two 
silver medals in Atlanta and his chances looked good for Sydney. But after 
his diagnosis of diabetes, three doctors told him he could never compete 

I can understand why. Diabetes is, in part, a disease of muscle fuel 
metabolism. In the Olympics, races are won and lost by a hundredth of a 
second. Few people with diabetes have competed at such an intense level. To 
say yes meant to risk losing. It was easier to counsel Gary to change his 

When Gary and his finance, Elizabeth, came to see me in Los Angeles they 
arrived for their appointment two hours late. I had to give a talk at another 
hospital, so I crammed them (each over six feet tall) into my little red VW 
Beetle and drove them across town with me.

After spending several hours with Gary, I recognized his strength and 
determination. He also struck me as someone who would try everything to 
achieve his dream. So I said, yes, I'd help him get back to swimming, though 
a part of me still wondered if it was possible.

To quell my doubts and learn more about swimming I flew to Berkeley, where 
Gary was training. I sat by the pool and checked his blood sugars, learned 
about his nutritional needs, met his coach, and made sure Gary wouldn't 
suffer hypoglycemia and drown from hypoglycemia during a workout.

After spending the day with him, I knew he could make it to the Olympics. I 
was with Gary at his swimming meets, where we cheered him on to make the cuts 
to qualify for the Olympics trials. I was in Indianapolis, screaming 
encouragement as he beat the competition and won a spot on the Olympic team.

And I was with him in Sydney where he won two gold medals, a silver and a 
bronze. It is hard to imagine being more proud of anyone than I am of Gary. 
But the path was not easy.

Swimming competitively with Type 1 diabetes is not simple. Yet it is 
possible. I also had to learn to let go with Gary. He did best with my 
support but not necessarily with too much specific advice. He is very smart. 
He knows his body very well. I could teach him theory, but the application 
would be up to him.

Part of the reason I fought so hard for Gary is because of his willingness to 
become a role model for others with diabetes. He will do what I cannot: show 
people by example how to cope with this disease.

And as amazing as Gary is, his story is one that many of us live, that of 
overcoming challenges, of following our dreams, of caring for other people.

Treating diabetes is a partnership, between doctor and patient, between 
mother and child, husband and wife. Every child, every adult who has diabetes 
or takes care of someone who does deserves a gold medal for trying. And until 
we find a cure, I will be on the sidelines, cheering as hard as I can.

Dr. Anne L. Peters is a professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine, 
University of Southern California.


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