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Diabetes not slowing eight-year-old Jacob Bly

Life is full of soccer, swimming, friends and the fun of growing up for eight-year-old Jacob Bly - a normal youngster who just happens to have Type I diabetes.

Jacob is the son of Paul and Rose Bly of Pierre, formerly of Philip. Paul was the pastor of First Lutheran in Philip for over seven years and now ministers at the Lutheran Memorial church in Pierre.

Jacob's onset of this disease was a major change for him and the family. "We are all just dealing with it. We are glad it is something we can now somehow manage," said Jacob's father, Paul. "It's a day-to-day process. It's going to be a life-long thing for Jacob, unless they make even greater strides in medical research. Maybe advanced technology or the transplanting of cells will be possible in the future, but now it is a permanent disease that Jacob will just have to manage."

The family had noticed that Jacob was drinking a lot of water. During an evening cub scout meeting, Jacob had drank three bottles of water. Kendra, Jacob's 15-year-old sister, also alerted her parents to information she had learned in her high school health class. Jacob had been uncharacteristically tired and lethargic. He had lost weight. The family's concerns peaked when on one day last Febuary Jacob came home from school and wanted to go right to bed.

The doctors ordered many tests, especially a blood work-up. Jacob was diagnosed with Type I diabetes and spent two and a half days in intensive care.

"Jacob was a very sick boy," said Paul. "The whole family got a lot of education in a very short time. He was a real trooper, though he hated giving all the blood samples that had to be taken."

A person's body normally creates insulin, which opens up body cells to allow relatively-large sugar molecules to enter in to be used as energy. Type II diabetes is when the body experiences only limited production and use of its own insulin. Type I, also known as juvinile diabetes, is when the body produces no insulin. Both are quite often the result of a genetic factor, but not in the Bly case.

Jacob possibly had contracted a virus a year or longer ago. Jacob's body created antibodies to fight the virus, but for some reason those antibodies also attacked the beta cells on his pancreas which produces insulin. That aspect of Jacob's pancreas is now dead.

With the required five-per-day insulin shots, Jacob improved. "His body had been starved for energy. He ate like a horse for about two weeks, regaining the weight he had lost, and he went into a growth spurt," said Paul. "His appetite is normal now."

'Normal' is a relative word. Jacob had to check his blood sugar many times a day by pricking his finger. If it is too low, he has to eat carbohydrates. Warning symptoms are shakiness, a weakness in the knees, and the possiblity of passing out. The family knows what Jacob means when he says, "I'm feeling low." Too high of a blood sugar reading means he must administer more insulin.

'Normal' means the family topic at every meal is counting carbohydrate grams per serving of everything. This has simply become their routine, because the more care taken now means the less chance of damage to Jacob's blood vessels and organs.

'Normal' means Jacob always carries an insulated lunch bag for his monitor, insulin, and emergency food snacks. The bag will forever be with him; he has even named it "George."

Recently, the Blys have been able to acquire a computerized monitoring pump. A little larger than a deck of playing cards, it can be clipped to Jacob's belt or clothing. A thin tube supplies insulin as needed from the monitor into Jacob's abdomen. Jacob can remove the pump up to about an hour at a time for things like showers, soccer, swimming and other activities. Though their medical insurance did pay some of the cost for the pump, the constant supply of materials and insulin will be a life-long concern.

At first, Jacob's friends were very concerned. Now they are curious about the pump. They have learned about diabetes, are very accepting, and now act as if it is no extra problem at all. Life is as 'normal' as it can be for Jacob.

A benefit concert by the Haakon County Crooners to assist with Jacob Bly's medical expenses will be held at 5:00 p.m. MT on Sunday, September 24 at Lutheran Memorial Church in Pierre.