Four years ago, seventh-grader Cole Bruesehoff set out to be a two-sport athlete in soccer and alpine skiing. He was working out harder than he ever had before and the results were unlike what is supposed to be seen.
The small kid went from 90 pounds to about 68 in a matter of a few weeks in November 2009. “As far as I knew, everything was going fine,” says Cole, now 17, of a mindset that he was burning fat before adding muscle.
But Cole’s mother, Kris Bruesehoff, was concerned, called a doctor and a visit immediately followed. Cole was given a blood test that revealed a blood-sugar level so high that the meters didn’t register it. “Here, I had a kid that said he wanted to go to ski practice,” Kris says. “And it was no, he needed to go directly to the emergency room.”
It was revealed Cole has Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, an autoimmune disease where the body doesn’t produce any of the insulin to convert sugars, starches and other foods into energy the body needs. Only 5 percent of people with diabetes have this form, according to the American Diabetes Association.
“I was in shock,” Kris says. “We don’t have autoimmune disease history in our family and even though I was kind of aware of it, I was under the assumption that it ran in families. It does, but it doesn’t mean it has to.”
Cole had a similar reaction, saying, “It was like a nightmare.” Hospitalized on Thanksgiving, Cole had to adjust to his new life. “That was a humbling experience that I wasn’t going to be normal anymore,” he says.
Cole set out on a two-day training process to learn about monitoring his blood-sugar levels, determining what foods could help and hurt and administering insulin to find a balance. All the while, he was focusing on moving on. He had a soccer-team event circled on the calendar on the day after Thanksgiving and he wanted to go. He did.
“He is very determined,” Kris says. “When I look back on it, I think that that might have been pushing it a little bit, but it was very important to him. Sports are his mental health.”
Kevin Seipel became the head alpine skiing coach at Woodbury five years ago, the same year Cole joined the team. During a race that first year, coaches at White Bear Lake and Cretin-Derham Hall were impressed with Cole’s race and asked Seipel who he raced for. “I smiled and said me,” Seipel says.
Cole will signal Seipel with simple thumbs-up, thumbs-down or thumbs-sideways to show how Cole is feeling. “We have a rapport,” Seipel says. “He will give me that sign and I will tell him to go get a juice box or a fruit snack and then he is right back out there.”
But Seipel says his two-year captain is responsible enough to pretty much monitor it on his own. Cole carries a drawstring pack with the necessary supplies during school. Sometimes, others don’t know why he’s pricking himself or can be fooled into thinking it’s contagious. “I’ve had times where it’s really frustrating where they don’t understand what it is or why I have to do it,” Cole says.
To help that cause, Cole, Kris and Cole’s sister, Jessami, have participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s 100-mile annual bike ride in La Crosse, Wis. Each year, the Bruesehoffs set out to raise $5,000, and are near a grand total of $20,000 in four years to help research into treatments and cures.
Although Cole has flourished despite Type 1 diabetes, it’s still a learning process. Sometimes he will see unexpected spikes or dips. “That’s one reason we need to do more research and find a cure,” he says.