On the surface Hunter Johnson is just another twelve year old kid. An honor roll student with a 4.0 GPA, Hunter loves to read during his free time. He also commits himself to his student council duties and serves as vice-president and he’s one of the top youth football talents in the country. It would seem like this Pueblo, Colorado native has it made. However for Hunter and his family, that’s far from true.
On October 14th, 2014 the Johnson family would have their world turn upside down. Hunter had just gotten home from playing in a youth football game and expressed to his father and mother Dawndi and Randy that he wasn’t feeling well. “Nothing crazy, he just didn’t feel well, he felt weak”, his father explained. Like most parents, the couple recommended their son rest up and gets some fluids in him. After a few hours, Hunter was starting to feel worse to the point a trip to Urgent Care was necessary. “He was like a car wreck and was extremely thirsty and felt really weak with obvious discomfort. His father says as he recalled the day. Luckily, after a brief description to the nurse of his symptoms, she knew the source of problem. She grabbed a glucometer to test his blood sugar levels (BSL). The glucometer showed Hunter was close to 900. Just for some perspective, a normal human’s blood sugar levels range between around 90 and 150. Hunter was immediately rushed to another hospital in Denver where he would remain for a little over a week. During that time, Hunter Johnson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The diagnosis came as both a huge strain and a relief. His parents were relieved because they had identified the problem, but they realized the major strain this may cause as this was going to be an uphill battle.
Type 1 diabetes is a disease that can be monitored but does not have a cure. With Hunter still hospitalized, the Johnson family would quickly learn the basic protocol of living with type 1 diabetes. The process is extremely difficult for both the diabetic themselves and the close family members. Hunter was taught that before he could eat a meal, he would have to prick his finger to get a blood sample and test his blood. Based off his BSL reading he would have to take an insulin injection. He could possibly take 7 or more shots a day to control the disease. All while making sure a level BSL was maintained. “It was really hard, a lot of sleepless nights for us, and for him, we were constantly checking on him” both parents said.
A few months after being diagnosed, and a bit of a learning curve, Hunter found a routine that seemed to work for him. Hunter and his parents decided he was healthy enough to get back on the gridiron. Although the game day preparations would change, and would have to start the night before any game, Hunter was determined to get back to his All American form. Among the preparations is Hunter’s diet. He would eat the same meal for dinner before games so his levels would allow him to sleep through the night, while giving him strength and keeping his levels controlled. Constant blood sugar checks before games, as well as halftime, became normal as a Dexcom ( a bsl monitor) is attached to Hunter’s abdomen so he can see a graph of his blood sugars. His teammates and coaches over time learned exactly what Hunter was facing. They rallied around the young superstar. “He works so hard, and he never complains about being diagnosed, he owns It.” exclaimed his father Randy.
In 2015 playing for the Pueblo Thunderwolves as a running back and linebacker, Johnson indeed owned it! Maintaining a 4.0 GPA all while boasting over 2300 rushing yards, 55 touchdowns, and 92 tackles this past season and earning a spot on our top 25 list for the class of 2022. In the PPAL city championship, Johnson busted for 6 touchdowns in the win. He will continue to be a force next season as he will join the Heaton Hawks middle school team. All with the support of his amazing parents (Randy, and Dawndi), his older sister (Erica), his younger brother (Ryan), the rest of his family, his coaches, teammates and friends, provide a network of support that has helped him thrive where others have given up. Okay, so maybe Hunter Johnson isn’t just another 12 year old kid on the surface after all. For me and others who know about diabetes, he’s an inspiration.