A Guthrie teen who became a poster child for weight loss after dropping 85 pounds two years ago is now facing an unexpected health hurdle — diabetes.
Mason Harvey, 13, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes Saturday after being rushed to an emergency room the day before with what his parents initially thought was a simple stomach virus.
Harvey made local headlines last year after losing weight and then pushing his friends, family — anyone who would listen — to reconsider their own food intake and lifestyles.
His “Strive for 85” campaign has drawn accolades from as far away as the White House, where first lady Michelle Obama last Easter praised him for his work.
“We could have understood when he was heavy in the sixth grade getting diabetes, but he didn't present the signs of having it then,” his mother, Julie Harvey, said on Monday. “Even doctors are not sure when it might have started developing.”
Mason Harvey came home sick from a New Year's Eve party earlier in the week, but what his mom and dad thought was a simple stomach bug grew more serious as the days progressed.
On Friday, Mason's older brother told their mother Mason was breathing funny, so she got him an appointment at the doctor's office where she works the front desk.
Disease is puzzling
The doctor's suspicions checked out when Mason's blood glucose level turned out to be dangerously high.
He spent the night and most of Saturday in intensive care as doctors worked to stabilize his glucose levels, and most of Sunday and Monday learning how to manage his new condition.
“We were just floored because we were like, how could a child that has been for the last two years pushing health and being active and being so good develop this?” Julie Harvey said.
Easy, said Dr. Jeannie Tryggestad, a pediatric endocrinologist at Harold Hamm Diabetes Pediatric Clinic. Type 2 diabetes is the variety that is commonly developed by people who are overweight; Type 1 develops for completely different — if not misunderstood — reasons, she said.
“We don't fully understand all of the mechanisms behind Type 1. We understand it's autoimmune, but we don't know what causes it, what triggers it,” she said.
With Type 1 diabetes, the body attacks beta cells created by the pancreas which are used for the production of insulin, and once those cells are gone, the patient develops the symptoms of diabetes.
With Type 2, the body's tissues are themselves resistant to the insulin.
Family history, ethnicity and weight problems can contribute to Type 2, but Type 1 can develop in young children and teens often without any precursor, Tryggestad said.
A person's prior weight problems — as well as his subsequent weight-shedding — would likely not contribute to the type of diabetes suffered by Harvey, she said.
If anything, Type 1 diabetes can cause people to unexpectedly lose weight because the body sheds excess glucose through its urine, causing diabetes sufferers to dehydrate and lose calories, she said.
“But most all of our patients that present, usually we have somewhere around a two- or three-year period where they've had increased urination first,” she said.
But if there's anyone prepared for a sudden health setback, it's Mason, said his mother.
He gets a joy out of sharing his fit lifestyle tips with adults as well as his peers, she said. Diabetes, though unfortunate, will be an addition to his advocacy platform, she said.
“He's already been cracking jokes and talking about how he can use this in a positive way to help what he's doing,” she said. “He said, ‘I can whup this just like I whupped everything else.'”