By Jeff Becraft
Today I had the incredible privilege of being part of a live zoom interview for kids in a children’s hospital in Charlotte. The interview was conducted by a Youth Corps alum from six years ago. She mostly asked me about Youth Corps but at the end, I got to share some of the below.
At age 11, my Mom took me to the doctor. I was running to the bathhouse every 15 minutes (literally) and I was drinking everything in sight. (My parents had to lock up the anti-freeze.) I felt tired on a regular basis and nauseous other times.
They ran a blood test at the doctor’s. The doctor came in and told my Mom, “You need to head to Children’s Hospital right now. He has juvenile diabetes.” They wouldn’t even let us go home and get a change of clothes or anything. We had to head straight to the hospital which was in Washington, D.C. I just found out a year or two ago that the doctor actually told my Mom that I probably wouldn’t live past 20 years old. My Mom was obviously upset and called my Dad. This was long before glucometers, insulin pumps, and CGM’s (continuous glucose monitoring).
Growing up as a kid, I had always said I never wanted diabetes. I loved sugar and I hated needles.
So there I was in Children’s Hospital at 11 years old for the next week of my life. My parents and my brother would come visit me on a regular basis and I really looked forward to those times.
While I am thankful for the care I got that week, hospital food wasn’t my favorite. Hospital food has come a long way since then. Back in the day, the food had no taste… like it had been cooked in Lysol or something. As Fred Sanford would say, “Thirty minutes after dinner, you could burp and it wouldn’t even remind you of anything.”
And I’m not sure what kind of sleep schedule they were on. I would be sleeping soundly and someone would come in my room in the pitch dark with a flashlight and be checking vital signs or taking blood. I would be thinking, “What is going on here? I was sound asleep. Not even Navy Seals are up at this hour.”
They were continually poking my finger to get blood. And this was no spring-loaded, “you’ll-hardly-feel-it” sort of operation. This was a harpoon that literally looked like a lightning bolt that they would jab into your finger. And then if that was not enough, they would squeeze your finger like they were trying to get the two sides to touch in the middle.
One morning, a young tech came in there and jabbed my finger and nothing came out. She jabbed another finger and nothing came out. I said, “See… you’ve killed me. I’ve been walking around here on fumes.”
The young woman then asked if she could stick my toes. I said, “Oh, uh-uh… you are not sticking my toes!” (A man has to stand up for himself at some point.) So that poor girl had to go back to the lab and tell them she had no blood sample for the 11-year-old diabetic kid upstairs.
At the very end of the interview, Nevaeh asked me if there was anything I would like to share with the kids and this was it (and this is true for all of us):
“Don’t give up and don’t lose hope. You never know what is going to happen next. Take the next step.“
Not only did I live past 20, but I am now old… and grumpy. I have been married to my wife, Brenda, for 36 years. We have 3 grown children, a daughter-in-law, son-in-law, and 3 grandchildren. And I can still grab shirts and push people underneath the hoop in basketball. (Although I do play zone offense… I figure if I can’t score from that part of the court, I’m not going to be able to score from any other place on the court.)
So… it’s a great day to take the next step!
Jeff Becraft is the Executive Director for Youth Corps and has dedicated much of his life to helping shift the vision of people’s lives. Youth Corps is a life-changing leadership development experience that inspires high school students to be leaders in the Midlands and beyond. You can connect with Jeff at [email protected].