On March 30, 2021, life changed dramatically for Lincoln Sondreal.
He had no energy. He’d hide from his family and sleep any chance he could. Along with fatigue, he could never seem to quench his thirst.
A life-changing diagnosis
One day these symptoms were especially bad. Lincoln’s parents, Jesse and Stacy Sondreal, brought him to the hospital for a blood draw. They thought he was experiencing a UTI (urinary tract infection).
During the blood draw, providers found his fasting blood glucose value to be resting at 421 milligrams (mg) per decilitre (dL).
- A normal fasting blood glucose value is less than 100 mg/dL.
- If it’s anywhere above 126, on consecutive tests, a patient is considered diabetic.
“I had to be rushed to the emergency room,” he recalled.
His mother Stacy said bringing him to the emergency room, and learning he had diabetes, was the worst day of her life.
“They knew he had diabetes right away. He was in the ICU for three days, and three nights. We learned how to manage it. It was devastating,” she said through tears.
Kurt Griffin, PhD, M.D., is a pediatric endocrinologist at Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said diabetes can be tricky to catch.
“Type 1 diabetes, as an autoimmune disease, is oftentimes smoldering in a teenager perhaps even years before they experience symptoms,” Dr. Griffin said. “Unless you go looking for evidence of that reaction against your own body, you don’t know it’s there.
“The autoimmune destruction typically progresses for years without any symptoms. Eventually, symptoms like drinking more, going to the bathroom more, and losing weight unintentionally start gradually and are often missed. From that point, diabetes progresses rapidly to a life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). If we know which children are on the path to T1D, we can intervene early and prevent DKA. This is what drives the PLEDGE screening program.”
Losing one sport, finding another
Through even one conversation with Lincoln, you’d easily be able to tell how much he loves sports. In fact, he’s, “never missed an NFL game, NHL game, NBA game, or PBA bowling match on TV,” he said while donning a Minnesota Timberwolves hoodie.
At the time of this incident and diagnosis, Lincoln, a freshman in high school, was the starting quarterback of his varsity football team in St. Paul, Minnesota.
He had to make the sobering decision to step away from the game he loved.
“I still tried to maintain my activity level. We lived on a river and had a lake place, and I was always outside doing work and I just found out how physically taxing it was on my blood sugar. And, having all these devices, such as a pump and a CGM (continuous glucose monitor), I didn’t want to take the beating that football players got,” he said.
But he didn’t want to swear off sports entirely. So, he gave bowling a go.
He’s now a state champion in South Dakota.
Nine months ago, the Sondreals moved to Brookings, South Dakota. Upon the move, Jesse and Stacy Sondreal said Lincoln met with staff at Empire Bowl in Sioux Falls, who drilled his bowling ball and showed Lincoln a few pointers.
But Lincoln took it from there.
“Since that early August day, when I first got the bowling ball, I’ve won a state championship with my high school team in Brookings. I’ve won a junior skills scholarship tournament singles event, and I’ve been in the money or cash or place top 5 in almost every tournament I’ve been in.
“I’ve qualified for Junior Gold, which is a national USBC (United States bowling congress) tournament this summer in Grand Rapids, Michigan,” he said.
Compassionate, world-class care
A diabetes diagnosis is a lifelong ordeal. Despite that, Lincoln said he’s been able to pour so much of himself into bowling, because he’s confident in his care at Sanford.
“The care I’ve gotten here at Sanford has been remarkable. It’s on a very personal level. They pay attention to detail, versus other places they just make some adjustments by the book and then you’re on your way.
“This place, it feels like a home, or even a community. You go to a really big hospital, or even just one in your hometown, it can be too personal or there’s not enough connection there, where you’re missing something. Here, all bases are covered. Everything is taken care of, and you feel good about it when you leave,” he said.
Jesse Sondreal echoed Lincoln’s words. He said the team was beyond personable, and the expertise was unlike any other.
“We met Dr. Griffin here at Sanford Children’s hospital and (he) really changed the trajectory of Lincoln’s care. Watching Dr. Griffin, it kind of looks like something from ‘A Beautiful Mind,’ penciling out algorithms and computations to just really fine-tune his settings. His approach has been a game changer for us,” he laughed.
“What’s great about South Dakota, (is) you have this small-town environment, neighborly community environment, and then world class people like Dr. Griffin and his team,” he added.
When the Sondreals moved from the Twin Cities to Brookings, they had to seek out other care providers.
When they met with Dr. Griffin and his team for the first time and explained their situation, “they immediately said, ‘I’m so sorry that happened to you,’” explained Stacy.
“(Just) that amount of compassion when you’re really suffering was something,” she added.
Being proud through adversity
Both Stacy and Jesse struggled to put into words how proud they were to call Lincoln their son.
“Proud isn’t the word. I’m just in awe of him. He’s amazing. I can’t believe he’s mine. He’s brilliant, amazing, everything you’d want your son to be,” she said, with tears of joy streaming down her face.
Jesse went so far as to call him a role model.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my son. His spirit of resolve and determination, and just never settling for anything less than what he wants to achieve has been inspirational to me and his whole family.”
Children’s, Digestive Health, Sioux Falls