Regular Only A Game listeners might remember Bill Littlefield’s conversation with Phil Southerland, founder and CEO of Team Type 1. Southerland was diagosed with diabetes when he was only seven months old. At the time, doctors told his parents that he was unlikely to live past the age of 25. Now, at 29-years-old, Southerland is a former competitive cyclist and an ambassador for diabetes education and research.
Beginning on May 15, Southerland’s team will be racing in the Amgen Tour of California. Team Type 1 took the “King of the Mountain” honors at last year’s tour, and Southerland hopes his riders will win the race outright this year.
Southerland’s new biography, co-written by John Hanc, is called Not Dead Yet: My Race Against Disease: From Diagnosis to Dominance. The book chronicles Southerland’s struggles to control his diabetes, his rise through the world of competitive cycling, and his work around the world to improve the lives of those living with the disease.
Excerpt from Not Dead Yet
I was born January 15, 1982. From early on in my life, they talked about my baby blue eyes. They still do. But Joanna saw through that.
Even though it was her first child, Joanna sensed within a few months that there was something wrong. Her baby wasn’t eating, he was losing weight, his diapers were soaked.
Joanna was confident; a bit high strung and nervous sometimes, concerned about the man she had married, maybe; but sharp-witted and strong. Nonetheless, she was scared. She brought me to the pediatrician.
There was something wrong, she insisted.
Nothing wrong, the young pediatrician replied.
“Then why is he losing weight?” the mother asked, after one week where I’d lost three pounds.
“Sometimes they do that,” he replied.
The situation worsened over the summer. At one point, he I started nursing constantly. Joanna called the doctor. “He’s probably teething,” was the response.
Two nights later, she brought me to him, to find out why I my breath smelled fruity. He really had no answer.
But on that weekend, August, 1982, I began to pant. A horrible sound that made it seem like I was running out of life, already. And for one terrible moment, when Joanna went to attend me, I looked up at her with the bright blue eyes—the eyes that had only just begun to fix their gaze on the still-new world around them. Those eyes were starting to turn a cold grey—and behind them, an unarticulated but unmistakable cry for help.
She looked into those eyes and saw death. Horrified, she alerted Phil and called the emergency room. “It’s probably a flu,” said the physician on the other end. “Bring him in.”
As they scooped me up, Joanna made one more call: To the pediatrician. “You said it was nothing,” she said, between sobs. “Well, I’m taking him into the emergency room. You can be there or not.”
And with that, she wrapped me up and rushed me off to the hospital. There, I was examined. My weight was 14 pounds, down from 24 just a week earlier. I was dehydrated, they said, and put him on a glucose IV—as it turned out later, that was the worst thing that they could have possibly done to me. Within minutes, as Joanna hovered over my bed helplessly, I grew limp and still and began to emit a sickening wheeze. “A death rattle,” she recalls today (and believe me, it’s scary to hear about this kind of stuff happening to any little baby, but especially when that little baby was you!). Panicked, she ran into the hall, calling for help. Orderlies, nurses, a doctor, came rushing in, and hovered around the child’s bed. “Is he going to die? Can somebody tell me, is he going to die?” cried my mom.
No one could tell her.
From Not Dead Yet by Phil Southerland and John Hanc. Copyright © 2011 by the authors and reprinted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.