Kroner: Judah's Allender has all-out effort

Kroner: Judah's Allender has all-out effort

CHAMPAIGN — Ian Allender’s numbers are usually all good.

The multi-sport athlete at Judah Christian has ranked among the area leaders in baseball and basketball the past two seasons.

He batted .438 last spring, which placed him among the area’s top 30 hitters as a junior.

In the recently completed basketball season, his team-high scoring average (17.5) ranked 11th among area players. His high game was 38 points.

Admirable numbers, no doubt.

They aren’t the numbers that Allender — or his family — finds most pleasing.

As a Type 1 diabetic, who has worn an insulin pump since age 3, he tests his blood sugar before every meal, between meals, before and after practice and at bedtime. He generally finds it within an acceptable range between 70 and 120.

He’ll take those numbers over a 20-point average in basketball or a .500 average in baseball any day.

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When Allender was diagnosed with diabetes as a 21/2-year-old, he was in diapers and too young to have a memory of the ordeal his parents faced.

“We called in blood sugars (to his pediatrician’s office), gave him (insulin) shots throughout the day in his stomach, counted carbohydrates for everything he ate and fed him only at certain times each day,” his mother, Beth Allender, said.

Because Carle does not have a pediatric endocrinologist, Ian Allender worked with a pediatric doctor in Quincy, where his mother was raised.

“The doctor told us long ago that his goal for Ian was that Ian be able to participate in whatever he wanted to do as he grew up,” Beth said.

Mission accomplished.

“The pump lets me do what I want,” Ian said. “I haven’t noticed a difference in me and anyone else.”

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The insulin pump, which has settings so he can adjust the amount of insulin going into his body, is no longer a big deal.

“It’s a part of me,” Ian said. “It’s so natural, I don’t realize or notice it. I don’t remember life without it.

“It hasn’t been too much of a hindrance,” he added. “It’s not a major setback. For me, it’s a routine. It’s there 24/7.”

Allender unhooks the insulin pump during basketball practices and games “because the constant activity lowers his blood sugar,” Beth said. “He does not need insulin to lower his blood sugar further during this time.”

Baseball is trickier due to the length of games. Allender unhooks the pump while on the field, while hitting or on the bases, but he reattaches it in the dugout while Judah is batting.

“It’s a slower pace, and my heart rate is not as high,” Allender said, “so I keep it on while I’m in the dugout. Baseball is more sporadic. An inning could last five minutes or 15 minutes.”

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At different times, Allender has played football and soccer, in addition to his high school choices of basketball and baseball.

It hasn’t turned into a guessing game to keep his blood sugar in check.

“Activity lowers the blood sugar,” he said, “but the adrenaline and anxiety from competing actually raises it, so that balances the activity out.”

Some people would consider Allender a role model for other teenagers with diabetes, proving that it doesn’t need to limit or curtail athletic endeavors.

He appreciates the view but isn’t sure about embracing it.

“Everyone gets their trials and stuff,” he said. “I’ve accepted it. Honestly, it’s pretty easy for me (to manage) now.”

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Judah Christian is the only school Allender has attended since kindergarten. He is one of 33 seniors who will graduate in two months.

His friends are aware of his condition.

“A lot of people know what to do when something goes wrong,” Allender said. “I have stuff on the bench. I keep my meter and glucose tablets in a pencil bag.”

His classmates recognize the telltale signs associated with low blood sugar — a lethargy or glazed-over eyes.

If left untreated, he could go into a diabetic coma.

“Friends who have been with me for years can tell pretty quickly,” Allender said. “I get sluggish when I’m low. I’m kind of out of it. They’ll ask if I’m doing all right.”

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Most people wouldn’t consider diabetes an asset in life, but Ian has found one way in which it is beneficial.

“Diabetes has been helpful, in some ways, with my health,” he said. “Earlier, I had to watch what I ate and how much.

“It has helped me to know what’s good for my body.”

A common misconception is that diabetes is an affliction associated with obesity.

There are two forms. Allender, a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder, is a Type 1 diabetic, which means his pancreas doesn’t function. He needs the insulin he gets through his pump to survive.

Type 2 diabetics are the ones who frequently get the disease later in life due to poor eating habits, and they often can reverse the effects by changing their diet.

Up next for Allender — even before he plays in a baseball game this spring — is to join his other classmates on a weeklong mission trip to Puerto Rico. The students left Friday, with six sponsors, and will be involved with construction projects near San Juan.

In the fall, he will enroll at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., where he hopes to play basketball.

It will be a time of one-on-one, not on the basketball court, as much as it will be in his life. He will be totally responsible for his diabetic care.

“I’m always conscious about it,” he said. “I feel ready to do all the stuff myself.”

Besides changing his infusion site and counting the carbohydrates at each meal, he’ll need to troubleshoot problems that arise and remember all the associated details.

He’s in good position because he has the numbers on his side.

Fred Kroner is The News-Gazette’s executive sports editor. He writes a weekly prep-related column throughout the school year. He can be reached by fax at 217-373-7401, by phone at 217-351-5235 and at fkroner@news-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @fredkroner.

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