Thankful it's only diabetes?

I know it may seem a strange thing to say, but after my son, Jody, spent a week at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite last week, I can honestly say I'm thankful his diagnosis was only type I diabetes.

That's not to say this hasn't been a life-changing experience, but there are so many children at Scottish Rite who won't be coming home today, this week, this month, or maybe even ever. So, yes, I'm thankful Jody came away with what may be a lifelong disease, but is at least a manageable one.

I know I'm only a sports writer, but bare with me here because some things transcend the world of sports. And my son's health (or your loved ones') is one of those things.

My wife, Amanda, will tell you my life sometimes seems to revolve around the Braves or the Georgia Bulldogs.

Until recently, I might have even been foolish enough to say something like that about myself. But 10 years of blessed marriage and five unmatched years as a father have opened my eyes to more important things.

I've learned there is perhaps no greater love than that of a parent for a child, and when your child is exposed to illness or pain, it hurts you just as much as it does them.

When we brought my son to the hospital Tuesday, his blood sugar was 657 (normal range is about 80-100). He was in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a state where too much sugar, organic acids and ketones are stored in the blood system because the pancreas has stopped making insulin.

I don't think I realized the magnitude of this diagnosis until the next day. Had we not taken my son to the hospital when we did, we could have very well lost him then.

Last Tuesday was probably the worst night of my life to this point.

My wife and I held back our own tears and helped to distract Jody with an I-Spy book while the nurse put an IV in Jody's tiny little hand. We held tears back again and constrained our rage as well-meaning nurses pricked his even smaller fingers two and three times every hour on the hour that night to check his blood sugar.

I nearly lost it when he looked up at me, his angelic face twisted with fear and pain, and said, "Daddy I can't do it. I just can't."

Despite the fact those handsome little dimples should never have been wrinkled with pain or fear, he did do it. He exhibited more bravery than I think I could ever muster in the hospital last week.

We finally let our tears flow as he slept the few hours of sleep he was allowed that night, and we continued to cry in the moments in between as the week played out.

We could even have cried on command after we came home at the end of the week. I could still cry now.

The amazing thing, though, is that as our tears continued, his began to dry up and gradually went away. By the time we left the hospital, he didn't cry at all when it was blood sugar or shot time.

Children are so resilient.

During a vacation trip to Cherokee, N.C. two weeks ago, Jody was given a Cherokee name (Little Bear) by Tsa-Ni (Johnnie) of the Western Band of the Cherokee Nation. Tsa-Ni told Jody that when he grew up, he would be given another name to show he was a man.

Just a couple of weeks later at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, I gave my son his adult Cherokee name: Brave Bear. If anyone deserves it, he does. He is so brave, he is my hero.

Jeff Hensley is a sports writer for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at jhensley@news-daily.com.