Young Man Overcomes Tremendous Obstacles to Swim for His Country

September 10, 2008

Every day, you’ll find Brad Harkleroad in the pool churning out laps and working hard to perfect his strokes. “Brad started swimming when he was just five,” said his mother, Pat. “He has always loved the water and has a beautiful butterfly stroke.” But his biggest obstacles haven’t been in the water. Brad, who lives in Louisville, has both Down Syndrome and type 1 diabetes. Yet, he is one of only 10 athletes who recently qualified to represent the United States in the Down Syndrome International Swimming Organization’s World Swimming Championships which will be held in Portugal from November 27 through December 4. “He is so thrilled to be going,” said Pat.

Diabetes Doesn’t Dampen His Dreams

It was about 10 years ago that Brad’s mother first took him to the Joslin Diabetes Center. “I felt like they would be up on all the newest treatments for diabetes, and be linked to the latest studies,” she said. “Now, we go in regularly for blood tests. The people there are so caring. When Brad gets sick it really affects his blood sugar. His verbal ability is limited, and sometimes he can’t clearly explain the problem. So I just call Joslin and they walk me through everything and make sure he gets exactly what he needs.”

Sri Prakash Mokshagundam, MD, is an endocrinologist at the Center. As he explained, “Brad takes two different types of insulin and uses them three or four times a day. His mother is extremely good at helping him manage his blood sugar. She always lets us know if any problems or questions arise.” He added, “We monitor Brad closely. He is doing extremely well. And being active certainly helps keep his blood sugar under control. In fact, when he is very active, we can cut down on his dose of insulin.”

“We are all proud of him,” said Dr. Mokshagundam. “Lots of people give up after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, but not Brad. He is an inspiration, particularly when you consider the other obstacles he has overcome.”

“Too many people who are diagnosed with diabetes are afraid they can’t manage their blood sugar and still be active and participate in sports. But exercise is very important to the health of people with diabetes. There are ways to handle it, and Brad and his mother have shown how well they can work.”

-Sri Prakash Mokshagundam, MD Board Certified Endocrinologist Joslin Diabetes Center Affiliate at Floyd Memorial

“We first went to Joslin about 10 years ago. I felt like they would be up on all the newest treatments for diabetes, and be linked to the latest studies. They are wonderful people who take so much interest in Brad. For a mom with a special needs child, it means the world.”

-Pat Harkleroad Brad’s Mother

A Special Surprise

Traveling to Portugal will be an expensive venture, both for the participants and for the volunteer coaches who work with the athletes. When Brad and his mother visited Joslin to get the results of a recent blood test, they were surprised when the Joslin Center staff members handed Brad an envelope. As his mother described it, “He looked up with a big grin on his face and said, ‘Mama, a whole bunch of money!’ They had taken up a collection to help cover the team’s travel expenses. It was such a wonderful thing to do,” said Pat. “I’m so grateful for the interest they take in Brad.”

A Talented Athlete

For many years Brad competed in the Special Olympics. In addition to his swimming, Brad is also an accomplished snow skier and golfer and has won competitions in both, including a gold medal for skiing in the International Special Olympic Winter Games in Park City, Utah.

Interested in Helping Individuals with Down Syndrome?

The Down Syndrome Support Association of Southern Indiana (DSSASI) will host several events in the month of September. For more information or to find out how you can help, call Al Hublar, DSSASI President, at 502-727-8358. September 17th Office Grand Opening-Ribbon Cutting and Open House (4:30-7 p.m.) September 23rd Walmart/DSSASI Golf Scramble (Hidden Creek Golf Course) September 27th 2008 Buddy Walk (Sam Peden Community Park)