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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 diabetes—a disease that plays havoc on a child’s sense of well-being.

With the help of their family, these young men have learned to manage their disease so well that they’re now helping countless other kids meet the challenges of juvenile-onset diabetes. They’re 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. Bo’s 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 it.”

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 wouldn’t 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 shouldn’t 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 can’t have low blood sugar and take a test.”

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 average.

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 we’ve learned through years of trial and error could educate and inspire other kids.” So, from the journals they’d 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 they’ll tell you that they didn’t miss a beat growing up. According to Spike, “Diabetes doesn’t keep my brother and me from doing anything we’ve 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 they’ve traveled fairly extensively. Now they have new challenges in managing their diabetes. They’re college students. First on their agenda upon arrival on campus was to brief their roommates in handling a diabetic health emergency. There’s a note taped to Spike’s 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: Visit their website at:

Patricia Fry is the author of A Writer’s Guide to Magazine Articles for Book Promotion and Profit (Matilija Press, 2000).

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