By Trevor Suffield
Dec. 4, 2008
If Bretton Tyler doesn’t go on to play in the NBA one day, it won’t be because of his diabetes.
Bretton, who lives in Charleswood, was diagnosed at the age of two with Type 1 diabetes and hasn’t really known a life without it.
Bretton, 12, is the Children’s Hospital Foundation’s 2008 Champion Child. The role will see him sharing his story with different groups on behalf of the foundation.
Tyler was born in Saskatchewan and suffered through an assortment of ailments as a baby but it wasn’t until he became ill while travelling with his family to visit his grandparents that he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
His parents, Shelly and Todd Tyler, took him to a family doctor who told them to take him to the emergency room at Children’s Hospital.
Shelly Tyler said it was a difficult time for the family, but knowing what her son was suffering from made a big difference.
“It was crushing, but as soon as we found out what it was the sense of relief,” she said.
“I was diagnosed at 32 weeks pregnant with gestational diabetes so I knew about checking blood sugar and I knew about counting carbs. It’s not that it’s easy, it’s just that I didn’t feel so scared.”
There have been some scary moments, though. During one 12-hour period doctors had to lower Tyler’s blood sugar levels to prevent his brain from becoming fatally swollen.
Type 1 diabetes affects the body’s immune system, making it unable to produce insulin that helps regulate the level of sugar in a person’s blood. More than two million Canadians suffer from diabetes.
There is currently no known cause or cure for diabetes. However, Dr. Shayne Taback, a researcher at the Manitoba Institute of Child Health, is examining the effects of vitamin D on the immune system.
“What we’re looking at is whether or not vitamin D would help protect the immune system, keep it balanced and avoid making this mistake,” Taback said, noting that this could help prevent the onset of the diabetes.
Recent studies have shown that children who live in environments with less sunlight than others are more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes, he added.
Bretton is not involved in the study, but his mom is excited about the promise it holds for others.
“As a parent I would have loved to have known that information,” she said.
Bretton, who attends Charleswood Junior High School, is an avid basketball player. He says his condition doesn’t really affect his day-to-day life.
“Sometimes when I play lots of basketball I have to come out of a drill because my blood sugar is low and I have to check it and have a juice or some form of sugar,” he said.
If Bretton doesn’t get to play for his favorite team, the Toronto Raptors, his mom thinks he would be a natural at public speaking.
“We have him on video when he was two and he was just diagnosed. He used to take the cushion from the chair and stand it up and give speeches about diabetes,” she said.
“We used to joke about it but that’s exactly what he’s doing now this year. And I really think that he will always be an advocate for it in some kind of role.”