Diabetes in the Fast Lane Part 2: An Interview with IndyCar Driver Charlie Kimball

IndyCar racer Charlie Kimball is a champion, in more ways than one.

After being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 22, he pushed on with his dream of becoming a professional race car driver. Now, as the only licensed IndyCar racer with diabetes, Kimball is using the sport as a platform to inspire diabetic kids to follow their dreams.

In 2009, he partnered with Novo Nordisk to found "Race with Insulin," an educational program that encourages diabetes patients who use insulin to talk to their health care professionals about options for insulin delivery. BattleDiabetes interviewed Kimball about his life as a driver with diabetes.

The following is Part 2 of the interview. [Follow this link for Part 1]

Charlie Kimball: [Race with Insulin] grew out of a question, “Can I tweet about when I’m taking my insulin? How do I tweet about it?” You know, understanding the FDA regulations and how important it is to heed those and do a program right, but also pull the curtain back on life as a professional racing driver…show people what I’m doing when I’m not in the racecar.

That program has grown now, and last year…we had tens of thousands of people through the Race with Insulin booth at the racetracks throughout the season. One of the neat things was that it gave them the opportunity to put their autograph on a show car. I’d go over to the booth, [and] I could see all these messages and words of encouragement…it really reminded me of the strength of the diabetes community throughout.

Battle Diabetes: Have there been any stories or anyone you’ve met [through Race with Insulin that have really stuck out to you?

CK: Absolutely. One of my favorite stories (and they’re almost inneumerable, they happen so often) was last year in Alabama…The team and I hosted a group of young gentlemen from the JDRF with type 1, ages eight to fifteen. After my qualifying session, I showed them the car, my helmet, firesuit, and then we had a meal at the team hospitality.

[Later], during my autograph session, one of the moms came through and said, “My son got diagnosed…about six months ago, and he played little league the last couple of summers. This year, he said he didn’t want to play…but after lunch [with you], he asked if we could stop at a sports store, so he could pick up a glove that fit, so he could play baseball.” For me, sharing the message of making sure to chase your dreams and live life to the fullest, whether with diabetes or without, it meant a lot to hear that story.

BD: What would you say to kids who’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, or parents who are trying to figure out what’s next?

CK: I think the biggest piece of advice would be that the tools are available. The medications, the delivery devices are so much better than they ever have been…so there are very few restrictions on your life. You just have to figure out how to make diabetes fit your lifestyle, rather than changing your life for diabetes.

You can meet Charlie on the Race with Insulin tour at various cities from now through October. To see if he’s coming to your town, visit the Race with Insulin website.

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