When Firestone Indy Lights racecar driver Charlie Kimball roars into town for the final race of the season at Homestead Miami Speedway on Oct. 2, he is out to prove more than his dominance on the racetrack. He’s looking to inspire people that nothing, not even diabetes, has to slow them down.
Racing at speeds as high as 150 mph, Kimball faces tough challenges every day. But his biggest hurdle so far wasn’t on the racetrack — it was in his doctor’s office. It was there, in 2007, that Kimball was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Kimball’s life changed overnight, and with no family history and little understanding of the disease, he was overwhelmed. Even worse, he was forced to put his racing career on hold until he could get his diabetes under control.
“It was like the world stood still,” Kimball said of his diagnosis. “I wasn’t sure what to think. What would this mean for me as a driver — but also what would I need to do to manage this?”
Kimball quickly learned that people with type 1 diabetes do not produce the insulin their bodies need to properly control blood sugar levels. To treat the disease, people with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin. Despite the available treatment it still can be difficult to achieve optimal blood sugar goals. The resulting “highs” and “lows” can cause serious side effects, and for someone behind the wheel of a racecar, the consequences could be deadly.
But Kimball, just 23 at the time, decided diabetes wouldn’t be the end of his career. He worked with his doctor to find a treatment regimen that kept his diabetes under control on and off the track. Kimball’s team fit his racecar with a continuous glucose monitor that provides real-time updates on his blood sugar levels and fashioned a special helmet system that enables Kimball to take a sip of sugar-rich orange juice if levels get too low while racing.
With these changes in place, Kimball was back in the racecar six weeks later and earned a triumphant podium finish in his first race since his diagnosis.
As the only licensed racecar driver with diabetes in the Indy Racing League, Kimball was in the unique position to share his inspiring story. He teamed up with Novo Nordisk, makers of the Levemir FlexPen (insulin detemir [rDNA origin] injection) and NovoLog (insulin aspart [rDNA origin] injection), the insulins and prefilled insulin pen device that he uses to help manage his diabetes.
Through this partnership, Kimball shares his story at hospitals in the cities where he races the No. 26 Levemir FlexPen car, as well as at diabetes patient expos nationwide.
To learn more about Charlie Kimball, follow him at Twitter.com/racewithinsulin or visit NovoNordiskCare.com.