Local ballplayer battles with chronic illness

Kaidon Miller, who has type 1 diabetes, was given a sportsmanship award by McNary Youth Baseball last season (Submitted).

To most people, Kaidon Miller looks like an average 14-year old kid. 

Miller just began his freshman year at McNary High School and has a deep passion for baseball. While he has excelled as a pitcher, Miller was also recognized as a sportsmanship award winner for McNary Youth Baseball (MYB) in the spring.

But what many people don’t know is that Miller’s ability to maintain a normal teenage life can be hampered at times due to his chronic illness.

Miller has been living with type 1 diabetes for three years now. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the body does not produce insulin on its own, which means that Miller must closely monitor his blood glucose levels, regulate his diet and take insulin whenever necessary.

“It’s such an invisible disease. You look at a kid like Kaidon and he looks normal. You would have no idea what his day-to-day life is like,” said Shelby Ivie, Miller’s mother. “He has to think about this extra stuff all the time.”

Miller first started experiencing symptoms during the summer of 2016, complaining of frequent urination, excessive thirst, weight loss and stomach aches. Gradually, the symptoms became more intense. It even got so bad that Miller was rushed to Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital in Portland, where it was discovered that he had diabetic ketoacidosis — a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when your body produces high levels of blood acids.

“It was really scary,” he said. 

After officially being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, Miller came to terms with the card he was dealt.

“I have always been really scared of shots. But I had to just face the fact that I have to do this every day for the rest of my life,” he said. 

In the coming months after the diagnosis, however, it was hard for Miller to keep up a positive attitude. But his world changed for the better when he returned to the baseball diamond in the spring of 2017. 

“It was awesome. It felt like I wasn’t alone. I was really struggling with depression and was wondering why this was happening to me. But I felt joy in coming back and playing baseball,” Miller said. 

Miller’s MYB team was inspired by his courage, which is why they each wore blue diabetes ribbons on their helmets in support of him.  

“Kaidon was having a hard time coming to terms with the new life that he didn’t ask for. He was really sad. But when he started baseball, it was like I got my son back,” Ivie said. “The baseball team lifted him up and supported him. I feel like they made him whole again. Having the support of his teammates was amazing. That season in particular will always be special to us.”

Over the last couple of seasons, Miller has taken the time to educate inquiring teammates about his condition.

“My teammates are often curious when they see me giving myself shots. Whenever they ask questions, I will educate them about what it is like to be a type 1 diabetic,” he said. 

While Miller has been able to play baseball for the last three seasons, the stresses of being a type 1 diabetic manifest themselves in different ways everyday. However, one thing that assists both Ivie and Miller in making sure his blood glucose levels are in a healthy place is Dexcom continuous glucose monitoring technology. 

The Dexcom G5 is a small wearable technology that automatically sends his blood glucose levels to him and his parents every five minutes to a smart device. The device also has alerts and alarms which notify Miller and his loved ones before a potentially life-threatening high or low in his blood sugar.  

Miller still has to be diligent about checking his Dexcom more than 20 times per day. He also has to give himself a shot anytime he eats or drinks. However, with his Dexcom, Miller has been able to manage his symptoms by himself while he’s at school. 

“With the Dexom, I’m able to keep my blood sugar in a tight range,” Miller said. “I catch it early when my blood sugar starts rising or falling.”

On the baseball field, it can be a little more difficult to manage his levels at times. Miller has even had to take himself out of a few games due to his blood sugar being too low. 

“You never want to have insulin on board, because when you have activity, it speeds up the insulin and makes it stronger. But I will have protein before my games because it stabilized my blood sugar longer,” Miller said. 

Luckily, his mom is able to look at her son’s levels on her smartphone while he’s playing. 

“I try to take (monitoring) on during games so he doesn’t have to pay attention to it,” Ivie said. 

Even though Miller still has his struggles from time-to-time, he still is able to live his life with joy. 

“I could just be sad all the time, but that’s not me. I’m a happy person and I don’t let it get me down. I have a lot to live for and a lot of good things in my life that keep me positive,” he said. “Plus, I think my type 1 diabetes has made me a lot stronger, so it makes me proud of who I am.”

Matt Rawlings: [email protected]