WLHS graduate overcomes diabetes challenges to excel in college athletics

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - West Linn native Grant Loriaux has battled Type 1 diabetes for nine years, but it hasnt stopped him from excelling as a goalkeeper at West Linn High School and Linfield College. When Linfield College soccer goalkeeper Grant Loriaux was named Northwest Conference Player of the Week on Oct. 15, he barely recognized the coincidence in the moment.

The junior from West Linn was focused mostly on the soccer aspect of the award, which came on the heels of Linfield’s crucial 1-0 shutout victory over rival Willamette University. If team victories come first in soccer, individual validation never hurts.

So at the time, Loriaux didn’t consider that exactly nine years earlier, Oct. 15, 2004, he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

“I haven’t thought about it that much,” Loriaux said. “But it’s nice to be able to play in college with that disease and excel on that level.”

The coincidence of the date certainly wasn’t lost on Loriaux’s mother, Terri, who refers to Oct. 15 as her personal Sept. 11.

“It’s not been easy to watch all of the stuff he has to do to play sports,” Terri Loriaux said. “Every other kid has to get his cleats, his shin guards, his equipment. ... Grant has to stop and think, ‘What’s my blood sugar?’”

But it’s always been worth it for Grant Loriaux, who was a multisport athlete growing up before deciding to focus on soccer in high school.

In fact, it was a basketball tryout that prompted his eventual diagnosis at the age of 12.

“He couldn’t run the court,” Terri Loriaux said. “He couldn’t get back on defense.”

He’d also complained recently during soccer practice, asking to run one mile instead of two. The Loriauxes first thought he was simply a lazy 12-year-old, but the basketball tryout and subsequent sleepless night going to and from the bathroom prompted the Loriauxes — both professionals in endocrinology — to test their son’s blood sugar.

When it came back at a sky-high 780, Grant Loriaux was rushed to the hospital and received his diagnosis.

One of his first concerns was whether he would be able to keep playing sports. The doctors said he could continue to do pretty much anything he wanted, so long as he was able to manage his blood sugar levels.

Loriaux jumped at the opportunity to prove his independence, asking to administer his very first shot by himself.

It certainly hasn’t been easy since then, and the disease remains a constant force to be reckoned with on game days.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Grant Loriaux recently earned the Northwest Conference Player of the Week award on the exact anniversary of his diagnosis of Oct. 15, 2004.

“The biggest challenge is just getting in a routine,” he said. “You have to standardize your day.”

For Loriaux, that means eating a protein-packed meal four hours before game time, having a bottle of Gatorade next to the goal at all times and keeping a sharp eye on his blood sugar levels.

“Being a goalkeeper is pretty stressful at times,” Loriaux said. “Stress raises blood sugar, so you have to watch it constantly, keep getting insulin and make sure the coaches know what the disease is.”

With even a slight drop in vigilance, Loriaux’s blood sugar levels could rise too far and provoke side effects like blurred vision — devastating for any athlete, particularly a goalkeeper.

Perhaps even more difficult, though, is maintaining a healthy balance between high and low blood sugar. Because the stress of game situations naturally raises blood sugar, it’s best for Loriaux to go into games at a fairly low level and “kind of ride that along,” as he puts it.

But if his blood sugar falls too low, all of a sudden he can’t play.

“The last thing you want is to not be able to play because of low blood sugar,” Loriaux said. “Then you’re really inhibited by diabetes, and that’s the last thing you want to do.”

Finding and maintaining that balance has taken years of trial and error, and adjusting to the college schedule was especially cumbersome.

“It’s almost more difficult in college because there’s so much less structure,” Loriaux said. “High school games are later in the day so you have all day to manage your blood sugar, whereas college games start at maybe 2 p.m., and you have a lot less time to correct yourself.”

Linfield head coach Chuck Bechtol leaves it up to Loriaux to manage those challenges.

“The way I approach it is he has to do what he has to do to take care of himself,” Bechtol said. “And he knows that better than I know that. So, I give him free range to know that he’s right.”

Over time, Loriaux has learned to adapt, and the player of the week award is a reminder of how far he has come. When he was diagnosed in 2004, his doctor promised there would be a cure within 10 years.

Whether that prediction comes true remains to be seen, but Loriaux will continue to confront diabetes with the same mindset that helps him succeed as a goalkeeper.

“You have to be confident as a goalie,” Terri Loriaux said. “You have to be resilient, roll with the punches, you can’t let things upset you. And that’s also how Grant handles his diabetes.”

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