Fall can mean a variety of things to different people. For me, it means a return to school routines and walks in the crisp air in the evenings. For many, fall means baseball playoffs. We’ve featured the story of Ron Santo, who lived with type 1 diabetes, plus the stories of Sam Fuld and Michael Taylor over on The DX. When The DX featured minor league professional baseball player Cory Vaughn earlier this year, I was struck by his mention of support he has received from his mom, and thought it would be interesting to hear her perspective on raising a child living with type 1 diabetes.
Stepping Up to Bat
When Cory was growing up, his father Greg Vaughn was a player in the majors and traveled a lot, so his mom Michele stepped up to bat as coach for Cory’s baseball team. “Basically, I just learned about baseball as my husband played,” she said. “Then some friends of ours asked if I wanted to become an assistant coach. I decided, since I’m sitting there at practice every day the whole time anyway, I might as well just help.”
Separating her role as coach from that of mom was a bit of a challenge, but it was important to Michele to make it a positive experience for the boys. “My philosophy was very different than a lot of the male coaches,” she said. “It was probably a mom thing. I would sometimes change the first batter to last and the last batter to the first. It seemed like the morale of the team was happy, and they felt really good about themselves.”
Memories of All-Stars
With a pro baseball player for a father, Cory had a number of unique opportunities. “He’s grown up in the locker room with these big players, when his dad played against them,” she said. “He got to be on the field as a bat boy and caught balls in the outfield with the All-Stars. He always had a signed Derek Jeter All-Star pennant in his room. Then in 2013 he got to play against Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez in the spring training big league game in Florida. He said, ‘Mom, I’m playing against Jeter and Rodriguez today.’ He’s gotten many tips from a lot of guys and had a lot of fun with it.”
Baseball with Diabetes
As coach, Michele noticed that another boy on Cory’s team wasn’t as energetic as he used to be. “I was the one that said, ‘Something doesn’t seem right with this boy,’” she said. “He’s just not keeping up with the running. We all thought he’s just going through puberty. Then this boy slid into first base and scraped his knee, and it wasn’t healing. He ended up having type 1 diabetes.”
A year later when Cory was 11, he started experiencing symptoms that Michele did not put together as indicators of diabetes. “What bothers me is few parents know the symptoms,” she said. “Some doctors don’t tell you when you’re going for your checkups, ‘Hey, if your son or daughter is urinating a lot, drinking a lot of water, or if they’re eating a lot and then losing weight, these could be signs of diabetes.’ You feel so guilty when something happens and you don’t recognize it at first.”
It helped Cory to know another boy near his age that lives with type 1 diabetes. “It was good for Cory because he realized this boy played baseball right away again,” she said. “He took his insulin shots off the field. He ate right. Cory got to see that he could do the same things. That made a huge difference.”
From early on, the Vaughns encouraged Cory to take an active part in his diabetes management. “Right off the start, we really focused on Cory knowing his body and learning what to eat and what not to eat,” she said. “I wanted Cory to learn everything, yet I helped do everything. For quite a while, I was overseeing everything, which probably drove him a little crazy. You need to be a part of it, but you don’t want to be overbearing.”
Michele also points to their diabetes care team as a key part of Cory’s diabetes management. “I think having the team – the nutritionist, the counselor and the doctor – was a huge part in maintaining Cory’s diabetes,” she said. “When I would go into the doctor appointments, I would ask every question possible. I would try to have everything written down before we got there so I used my time with the doctor very appropriately. I think that kept us motivated and on top of everything.”
Michele sent pictures of Cory in his baseball uniform to his doctor so other kids living with diabetes could see that participating in sports may still be possible. “His doctor would hang the picture up on his bulletin board,” Michele said, “so other kids could see that and think, ‘Wow, this guy is an All American athlete. He is on the honor roll. He’s doing all these sports and he’s diabetic. Maybe I can do it, too.’ It’s really cool that Cory has made it this far and can be an example for somebody else.”
A Time of Transition
Now that Cory is 25, the diabetes support that Michele offers has shifted. “When he left home for college, it scared me that he was out on his own,” she admitted. “I had to trust that he was going to take care of himself and do the right thing, and he didn’t have any problems. Now he tells me when he has his doctor appointments and if his tests have been good. I just want him to know that I’m there if he does need anything.”
Michele notes how far Cory has come. “It’s been very hard,” she said. “I don’t think people realize how much work it takes to get where he is. He’s getting up really early and working out, hitting balls, really putting in the effort it takes to get to the big league. I’m really proud of him.”
I was so impressed with Michele’s determination for the boys to have a positive experience in baseball, and all the support she’s shown Cory through the years. Their hard work seems to have paid off! I was also pleased to learn Cory played ball for San Diego State, my alma mater! My thanks to Michele for sharing her story.
All the best,
Disclosure: Michele Vaughn received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.