Help other children with diabetes, former Steeler tells Greensburg youths
Kendall Simmons didn't feel right two and a half weeks before Pittsburgh Steelers training camp was scheduled to start in 2003 in Latrobe.
He was constantly thirsty. He suffered from dry mouth. He made frequent trips to the bathroom and dropped 45 pounds.
Then, he recalled, he went blind and was hospitalized until doctors determined the cause — diabetes.
“My wife was 1 or 2 inches from my face, and I couldn't see her, and I was only 23 years old,” Simmons said Thursday in Greensburg, recalling his four days in a hospital bed.
Now, his sight restored and his body nearly 60 pounds lighter than in his days as a Steelers guard, Simmons spoke to about 75 children at the Greensburg YMCA.
He encouraged them to stay active and never give up on their dreams. Simmons, a spokesman for the national diabetes care company Novo Nordisk, instructed the children about what causes diabetes and what it's like to have it.
“The more activity you have and run around, the better you feel,” Simmons told the children. “Your body needs that.”
At first, doctors determined Simmons, 35, the Steelers' first-round draft pick in 2002 out of Auburn, suffered from what he called “type 1.5” diabetes, or latent autoimmune diabetes.
“I thought, ‘What is this?' and ‘Why do I have to have it now,' ” he remembered. “ ‘How did I get this, and why?' I didn't understand. I felt I was healthy.”
Everyone surmised he suffered from Type 2 diabetes because he weighed 315 pounds in his rookie season, Simmons said.
“But I was in the honeymoon phase,” he added. “It took seven years for the pancreas to shut down.”
With Type 2 diabetes, a person's body still produces insulin — a hormone that helps turn food into energy — but is unable to use it effectively.
With Type 1, commonly called juvenile diabetes, the pancreas stops producing insulin. To survive, people with Type 1 must get multiple injections of insulin daily.
Simmons, who now has Type 1, wears an insulin pump.
“I've got to have this at all times, and I have to move it every two days to make sure it's working properly,” he said.
Help other children with diabetes, Simmons, a father of four, told his young spectators.
“Keep your eye out for them,” he added. “Do whatever you can do to make them a part of your group. Living with diabetes and managing it can be done.”
Simmons said he was fortunate during his football days that members of the Rooney family — the Steelers' owners — knew about diabetes. They understood what he was going through because they had relatives with the disease, he said.
“I needed a whole lot of help. The Rooneys did a very good job taking care of me. They had to deal with it because they had kids who grew up with it, so they made it easier for me,” Simmons said.
He could count on sugar-free jellies, pancake syrup and other healthy foods being near his grasp at training camp.
“I had to learn how to play (in games) through my lows and my highs. I had to learn how to play smarter. I had to become more of a technician, because the strength wasn't always there,” he said.
Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Route 119 ramp to Route 819 to be closed in July
- Hempfield dentist-turned-missionary-turned-author offers advice for youths
- Greater Latrobe grad dies in wreck on winding road
- Cross-state trek to help veterans passes through Ligonier
- Fire extinguished at Smithton commercial building
- Judge approves $1.7 million sale of former Ligonier Valley school
- Westmoreland County Community College loses technology center architect
- Vehicle break-ins reported in Derry, Ligonier townships
- Former Mt. Pleasant sex offender to stay behind bars while wife hunts for home
- North Huntingdon man, 76, pleads guilty to assault on student
- Mt. Pleasant Area School District approves tax increase