by Patricia Fry
2001 Becoming Family
Diabetic Siblings Share their Can-Do Attitude
The thought of teenagers reaching for a needle chills the blood of most
adults. But Spike and Bo Loy achieve good health by shooting up
several times a day. They represent the one in every 600 kids who grows up with
diabetesa disease that plays havoc on a childs sense of well-being.
With the help of their family, these young men have learned to manage their
disease so well that theyre now helping countless other kids meet the
challenges of juvenile-onset diabetes. Theyre the authors of the first
book ever written about diabetes for kids by kids.
Spike, 20 and Bo, 18, attended grammar school when they were diagnosed with
insulin dependent diabetes. Their mother, Virginia, recalls the day diabetes
barged into their lives. It was Thanksgiving 1987. Spike, 7, had not been
feeling well all week. At breakfast, he put his head down on the table and
said, Mom, something is wrong. I immediately took him to the doctor
and moments later the diagnosis was made. Spike had diabetes.
On Thanksgiving day 1988, 6-year-old Bo experienced the symptoms his older
brother had complained of one year earlier. According to Virginia, Bo and
I walked over to the kitchen counter and did his first finger prick blood test.
A normal blood sugar would be 80. Bos test registered 180. I said to him,
Bo, you have diabetes like your brother. And, like his
brother, Bo spent the next three days in the hospital. We wanted Bo to go
through the same educational process so he would understand diet and all of the
blood tests and insulin injections that were to come, says, Virginia.
While Rick and Virginia Loy felt it was vital that the boys understand their
disease, they did not want it to get in the way of their childhood. According
to Virginia, Our philosophy was: let Mom and Dad worry about the
diabetes. You guys go out and be carefree kids. We were determined to figure
out how to let our boys do everything any other kid could do despite
diabetes. And the family pooled their resources. She says, Diabetes
happened to the entire family, so we all worked together to help Spike and Bo.
Their sisters, Jenny (14) and Mary (12) were absolute troopers.
Spike recalls how frightened he was when the diagnosis came down. He says,
It was pretty scary for a 7-year-old. The whole family was kind of shook
up. But some smart people at the hospital got us straightened out and then it
was kind of trial and error for a year or so. I had to take shots all the time
and draw blood all the time and it was not something that I really wanted to
do. But my parents let me know it was something I had to do and I quit
complaining real quick. I had adjusted to it real well by the time Bo got
Managing diabetes means constant monitoring, frequent meals and appropriate
exercise. And Virginia kept the flow going by educating the boys teachers
and coaches each year, keeping a cooler of supplies near them at all times and
feeding them snacks on the sidelines during soccer and baseball games. She
says, I have never missed a practice or a game. I was always there with
snacks and Gatorade.
Spike recalls, My mom would even come down when we were spending the
night an hour away and check our sugars and give us our shots.
The boys had to take some responsibility for their health, however. One way
they did that was to make others aware. Spike explains, From day one we
let all of our friends know that we have diabetes. We wouldnt sit them
down in a formal setting, but we would tell them right away what it means, what
we have to do differently and what we shouldnt do. This gave our friends
an active role. It empowered them.
And this knowledge came in handy more than once. Spike recalls a time in
grammar school when he was on the playground and suddenly felt dizzy. He writes
in their book, My good friend, Kevin, knew there was something wrong with
me. He started talking to me and walked me to the office, called my mom and
started to feed me my caramels.
Another time Spike, normally a good student, got a zero on a test in class.
He took his blood sugar afterward and discovered that it was extraordinarily
low. He says, I learned that you cant have low blood sugar and take
These, and many other lessons served the boys well as both of them graduated
from Nordhoff High School in Ojai, CA with honors. Spike, ASB vice president
and a National Merit Scholar was valedictorian for his class. Bo was also ASB
vice president during his senior year. He played varsity soccer and was
associate editor on the school newspaper while maintaining a 4.3 grade point
Their relative success in managing their lives with diabetes spurred Spike
and Bo to become teen mentors and in 1998, they helped organize a local
playgroup for kids with diabetes. The Loys were bombarded with questions from
the children and their parents. Bo said, We found that our tips about
safety and the lessons weve learned through years of trial and error
could educate and inspire other kids. So, from the journals theyd
kept over the years, they typed up a set of guidelines. The boys
guidelines were so well-received, that they decided to write a book. Get a
Grip on Diabetes: A Guide for Kids and Teens was published by the American
Diabetes Association in 2000.
According to one of the boys doctors, Marc Weigensberg, This
book is very important for teens because teens will listen to other
teens. He adds, Adolescents have a tough time dealing with diabetes
because it tends to set limits and restraints on their lifestyle choices just
at a time when their primary issues are freedom.
Ask the Loys and theyll tell you that they didnt miss a beat
growing up. According to Spike, Diabetes doesnt keep my brother and
me from doing anything weve ever wanted to do or still want to do. We
have to be just a little bit more careful and a little bit smarter about
dealing with some day to day things than our friends do. Spike and Bo are
avid surfers. They snowboard, ride dirt bikes, participate in several active
team sports and theyve traveled fairly extensively. Now they have new
challenges in managing their diabetes. Theyre college students. First on
their agenda upon arrival on campus was to brief their roommates in handling a
diabetic health emergency. Theres a note taped to Spikes closet
door, for example, with explicit instructions.
Spike is studying human biology at Stanford University with plans to do work
related to diabetes. Bo is majoring in biomedical engineering at the University
of Southern California and hopes to become involved in diabetes research.
Contact the Loys at: email@example.com. Visit their website at:
Patricia Fry is the author of A Writers
Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit (Matilija Press,