RYE - Even from 10 rows up in the stands at Rye football games, Wendy Nagle can usually tell when her son, Brendan, is tired and when he's lethargic. There are subtle differences that only a mother - and the parent of a diabetic - can comprehend.
Brendan Nagle suffers from Type 1 diabetes, a serious autoimmune disease that impacts energy and strength. So when he suddenly isn't getting to the quarterback, Wendy figures something is wrong.
"He's had it for 7 1/2 years, so I can tell in his eyes and face, and in his demeanor," Wendy Nagle said. "There are times when we've had to go down to the sideline and make sure he checked his blood-sugar levels because we can tell by his movements on the field."
Based on how Nagle has performed this season, it hasn't been very often.
In his first full season on varsity, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound junior has started every game at outside linebacker for the Garnets, who captured their sixth straight Section 1 Class B title on Saturday night at Mahopac High School.
Nagle recorded his sixth sack of the season on the first play of the 34-7 win over Pleasantville to lift Rye, the defending state champ, into Friday's state quarterfinal against Section 9 champion Highland at Dietz Stadium in Kingston.
"It's amazing what he can do," Rye junior David Shaughnessy said. "I know that Jay Cutler, the quarterback for the Denver Broncos, was losing weight and was tired all the time and they figured out he had diabetes. So I think it's impressive that a kid can have this much energy and strength."
Type 1 diabetes affects nearly 3 million Americans, compared to the roughly 20 million who have Type 2.
Type 1 is typically diagnosed in children and young adults, and is caused when the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas are damaged. Insulin is a hormone that converts the body's sugar and food into energy.
Nagle was diagnosed when he was in the third grade. The initial symptoms seemed minor, and he was thought to have come down with a bad case of the flu. After nearly two weeks, he went to the doctor, who immediately sent him in an ambulance to the hospital.
"I spent about a week there," Nagle said. "And my life has been different ever since then."
Nagle wears a blood-sugar meter everywhere he goes to monitor his levels.
Since Nagle, who also plays varsity basketball, can't wear the meter during athletic events, he regularly injects himself with insulin during games. He typically does it immediately before kickoff and at halftime.
Nagle checks his blood-sugar levels during a game if he feels lethargic and, on rare occasion, injects himself on the sideline.
"My blood sugar is usually pretty low before games," Nagle said. "I usually drink a little Gatorade or eat a granola bar, and that gets it back up to normal pretty quick."
What causes the blood-sugar levels to fluctuate varies. While it's common they'll seesaw during games, it can also be impacted by stress, adrenaline or hormones.
If adrenaline is high, say after a big victory, Nagle must do what diabetics call "bolus," which means take an extra amount of insulin. Once those levels subside, Nagle must then again manage his blood-sugar levels.
"Everybody thinks that diabetes has been around forever and that you give yourself insulin and you're fine," Wendy Nagle said. "But really, every single day is a new day in the life of a diabetic. Everything they do affects them differently. It's a constant balancing act and he does a really good job with it."
Wendy Nagle is part of a group of local mothers of children with diabetes who are using fundraisers to help find a cure. The group annually organizes a bike ride, which raised $1 million toward research for Dr. Denise Faustman of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
At the moment, Brendan Nagle is more focused on winning another state title. He got a taste of the varsity level when he was promoted from the JV late last season, and figures to make an even bigger impact next year.
"Brendan is the underclassman who's stepped up and done the job, which has become to be expected at Rye," Garnets coach Dino Garr said. "He's one of our leaders and has played an important role on offense and defense."