Courageous Kid: Grayson Smith

Smith is a 9-year-old hockey player who is living with Type 1 diabetes

Preparing for hockey practice is quite an endeavor.

"I usually come here about 30 to 45 minutes before I start," 9-year-old Grayson Smith said.

Getting suited up in layers of pads and other gear takes time, persistence and attention to detail -- all of which, Grayson Smith is used to.

"I have this label," he said while pointing to his helmet. "It says, 'Type 1 Diabetic.'"

Smith was diagnosed three years ago.

"Exercise helps it," Smith said, because it helps to balance his blood sugar. So he plays for Allen's Junior Americans team.

"You're in a white jersey -- you're defense," one of the coaches said to a group of players.

Five days a week, Smith is on the ice practicing.

"I like playing defense," Smith said. "You stand in front of the goalie. You're pretty much protecting the pucks from even getting a shot on the goalie."

He works overtime to be his best. His coach, John McManaman, who is also the City of Allen Director of Hockey, said his teammates notice.

"They respect him and they want to be like him in a lot of ways because they might not have the drive he has," McManaman said.

It's that drive that helps push Grayson through his health challenges.

"Type 1 is actually an autoimmune condition," said Scott Smith, Grayson's dad. "In his case, his immune system killed the insulin-producing cells in his pancreas."

His son needs insulin to survive. If left untreated, it would be fatal, so Grayson is monitored constantly.

"On my right arm, I have this little thingy," Grayson Smith said. "You press a button, there's a needle that shoots down and then it takes samples... and says what it is on my phone."

His blood sugar levels are tracked by his parents using two apps. If his numbers get too high or too low, he gets juice or insulin. If that happens during practice, it takes less than 10 seconds for him to get treated and get right back to practice.

As for that needle that he said goes into his arm?

"Once you have it for like two weeks or so, it starts to not hurt anymore," Smith said.

"What is courageous about him is he never gets down," his dad said. "So, you're talking about a kid who pokes his fingers 10 times a day, who has to sometimes not eat what he wants to eat... he doesn't complain. There are no complaints at all... he's tough as nails."

For Smith, being a Type 1 diabetic takes time, persistence and attention to detail, but for him, "Once you're really used to it, it feels regular, and it feels like you're just like anybody else."

Each year, the Smith family makes a trip to Canada where they attend a camp specifically for youth hockey players with Type 1 diabetes.

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