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Diabetes can't slow star Frazier athlete Dillon

| Thursday, May 3, 2012, 1:42 p.m.
Kelsey Dillon at Frazier High School. 'With my family background and growing up around medical issues and recently dealing with diabetes, I would like to be in a position to help others someday.' Lori Padilla | For the Tribune-Review
Kelsey Dillon at Frazier High School. 'With my family background and growing up around medical issues and recently dealing with diabetes, I would like to be in a position to help others someday.' Lori Padilla | For the Tribune-Review

In October of Kelsey Dillon's sophomore year at Frazier High School, in the middle of volleyball season, she suddenly had a lack of energy, not even having enough stamina to walk up stairs.

As Kelsey also was unable to quench her thirst, her mother escorted her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with Type 1 juvenile diabetes, a hereditary disease found in both sides of her family.

Dillon says that in Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce any insulin. Medication provides the insulin she needs.

"I give myself six shots every day to lower my sugar level," she said. "I check my sugar level on a regular basis."

In addition to the insulin, Dillon has learned to "eat healthy and exercise. This helps regulate my blood sugar level. I don't eat much junk food and no greasy food or food with sugar. I eat a lot of fruits and chicken, especially grilled chicken."

If she is below a certain level, she drinks Gatorade or reaches for a candy bar, like Three Musketeers.

"I'm able to recognize the symptoms," she said. "I know when I'm low and I feel like I may pass out. All my coaches understand and I may have to sit out for a while in practice or games. In volleyball there was so much running my sugar level would go down or if there were some big games and I was excited or stressed, I could tell when the sugar level is low. Then go for the Gatorade or candy."

Despite the diabetes, Dillon has not permitted the condition to slow her on the field or court.

As a junior last year, she earned all-section and all-county honors in softball, batting .604, and was an all-county volleyball selection this past season. Last year her Lady Commodores volleyball team copped the WPIAL title.

Frazier softball coach Paul Harvey referred to Dillon as one of the best hitters on the team and marvels at her game, in spite of her condition.

"Kelsey plays through the diabetes," he said, "and she makes no excuses. She monitors herself in practice or during games and it does affect her sometimes, which forces her to sit for a while, but she gets right back on the field. She knows the feelings associated with diabetes and gives herself insulin when necessary."

On the softball field, Harvey has seen Dillon improve each season. Last year, in the Commodores' first playoff game, her two-run first inning homer proved the difference in Frazier's 2-0 win.

In Frazier's second playoff game, her solo home run in the second inning represented the team's only run in a 2-1 setback.

Even though Harvey quickly recalls Dillon's home runs in the playoffs last season, she points to Frazier's victory over Chartiers-Houston when she was a sophomore as her biggest high school softball memory.

"Chartiers-Houston was state champion and had only one loss that season, to the Lady Commodores," she said, proudly remembering the game.

At the mid-point mark this season, Dillon has continued her torrid hitting pace.

"Kelsey's season is going very well," Harvey said, understating the obvious, referring to her stats. Early in the season, she had 15 hits in 30 at bats for a .500 average, with a team-leading four home runs, equaling her total last year, and 14 runs batted in. Dillon plays first base and bats cleanup for the Commodores. "She hits very well in the clutch and there is no pressure with runners on base."

Even though Dillon competes in two sports, all the while dealing with the diabetes, she remains quite active in school as a member of the student government and FBLA, Health Careers, and Ecology clubs.

With Relay-for-Life, she helps raise money for cancer research. As a member of the Interact Club, she volunteers as a Salvation Army bell-ringer during the Christmas season. Not neglecting her academics, she maintains a 3.5 grade average and is ranked among the top 20 students in her class. Dillon noted that diabetes research is currently exploring the possibility of developing an artificial pancreas, researching the use pig pancreatic cells looking for a cure, and using an insulin pump, which automatically regulates an individual's sugar level.

As her scholastic career winds down, Dillon's post-secondary plans are to attend Seton Hill University in Greensburg this fall to major in becoming a physicians assistant. Her father, Mark, was a nurse and worked as director of an emergency room, while her mother, Tracey, is a medical transcriptionist. Dillon also volunteers at Uniontown Hospital.

"With my family background and growing up around medical issues and recently dealing with diabetes, I would like to be in a position to help others someday," she said.

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