Imagine battling an invisible foe on and off the field. Twin brothers Will and Zach Jackson are Type 1 diabetic, and as football players at East Duplin High they courageously fight to manage this life threatening disease with courage that inspires everyone around them to never give up.
“I was five when I was diagnosed,” Will Jackson said. “I remember being in the hospital and I was very sick, and then they just told me I had diabetes.”
Will and his family live in Chinquapin, NC, in Duplin County. He and his twin brother Zach both have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. At the young age of five, Will hardly knew what this diagnosis meant for him.
Having type 1 diabetes, Will had to start taking measures to keep his body healthy. Since the condition is an autoimmune illness that kills off insulin producing cells, this includes checking blood sugar levels multiple times a day to see if insulin is needed.
“It was kind of tough having to see Will have it all those years,” Zach said. “And I never really thought I was going to get it, but then I did so I already kind of knew a lot more.”
But they don’t let diabetes slow them down. Today, Zach and Will lead active lives. They both play cornerback and wingback on the East Duplin High School football team, and have been playing football since seventh grade. They’re just careful to check their levels, and make sure they’re stable—not too high, not too low—or they can’t go out on the field.
“A high is you’re very thirsty,” Will explains. “Your body might start to cramp a little bit.” Zach adds, “If you don’t hydrate at all, or if you don’t give the right amount of insulin, you get high and could get really sick.”
Low levels on the other hand, mean they need to eat food to try to stabilize them.
“Diabetes, it’s relentless,” said Will and Zach’s dad, Jarrett Jackson. “It doesn’t give you any day off. So for me to see the boys out there, their strength and resiliency, to persevere and not let diabetes hold them back, I admire that in them tremendously.”
Zach said, the way he looks at it, he can do anything a normal person can.
“For a lot of younger kids to get it, they might not know what it looks like and be scared of it,” he said. “So I hope they can look at us and see that this doesn’t really stop you or anything.”