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Chieftain Times

The Student News Site of Yutan High School

Chieftain Times

The Student News Site of Yutan High School

Chieftain Times

Kennedy overcomes obstacles of diabetes

A single moment can change someone’s life forever. For senior Zach Kennedy, his life-changing moment came at a young age.

“Zach was diagnosed with diabetes when he was five years old,” Zach’s mom, Lynnette Kennedy, said. “I remember Zach sitting on the exam table, knowing he didn’t understand what that meant, and yet I couldn’t talk or move.”

Although he may not have fully understood it, Zach was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, a genetic disorder that affects the amount of insulin the body produces on a regular basis.

Senior Zach Kennedy takes a picture with his parents, Scott and Lynnette Kennedy, after an away football game. Zach was the starting varsity center for the Chieftains. (Courtesy Photo)

“Normally your pancreas produces insulin, which reacts to the chemicals your body produces while you eat food, but my white blood cells kill islet cells (cells that make insulin). So my body doesn’t produce enough insulin,” said Zach.

Because of this, Zach and his family had to learn how to take care of and maintain his diabetes by attending clinics, one of which they were sent to after their initial visit.

“[After the diagnosis] we were sent immediately to Children’s Hospital, where we spent four days learning how to care for our child. We made decisions very early that we wanted Zach to have as normal a life as possible,” Lynnette said.

In order for Zach to achieve a close-to-normal life, Lynnette explained that she and her husband adopted a “wiggle room” parenting method where they prioritized balancing their son’s health and happiness. This means that they would try to maintain stable insulin levels while making sure Zach wasn’t missing out.

“At a young age, it was hard for me to manage it, so my mom wouldn’t usually let me sleep over at friends’ houses,” Zach said. 

His parents worked with other parents, though, to try to give him those opportunities.

“When Zach was in grade school, moms were willing to leave their doors open at night, so he could sleep over. I did often drive over to their homes in my pajamas, sneak inside and adjust his insulin to keep his sugars from falling too low or climbing too high,” Lynnette said.

With the help of his family and community members, Zach was able to have a similar childhood to his friends; however, part of it came from Zach learning to manage his diabetes on his own. 

“When I hang out with friends, I have to worry about how much sugar I’m taking and dosing for,” Zach said. “I think it taught me a really great sense of responsibility because I have to manage my diabetes. It made me develop faster into becoming an adult.” 

Part of learning how to manage his condition meant learning more about diabetes itself. Zach and his mom both said that school nurse Amy Krajicek taught him a lot of what he knows.

“[Amy] is incredibly knowledgeable about diabetes, and from the moment Zach became a student at Yutan in third grade, Amy has gone above and beyond to take great care of him,” Lynnette said. “Zach had previously spent a lot of time in the nurse’s office, but at Yutan, Amy was always willing to check on him in or near his classroom.”

At Zach’s old elementary school, he was constantly in and out of the nurse’s office, causing him to miss out on instructional time. However, being at Yutan, he has been able to have a more normal experience due to the evolving technology that allows Krajicek to monitor students through an app.

“With the students I have in the district, I’m watching them on my app and kind of watching their trends. If they get too low or too high, I know they’ll take care of it, but sometimes I’ll call the classroom and just kind of notify that teacher,” Krajicek said.

Thanks to the advancing technology and support of Krajicek, Lynnette explains that “Zach has soared academically” and has been well prepared for the future.

Amy likely believes that she was simply doing her job, but we would love for her to know our gratitude towards her is beyond words. His confidence grew, and now he is Kansas State-bound with an incredible academic scholarship.

— Lynette Kennedy

Krajicek added that it has been “rewarding” for her also to see Zach’s journey from elementary to now as a senior in high school.

“When you have a student who has managed it as well as they have, and you know that they’re going to go on to be a healthy individual despite their diabetes, it’s pretty rewarding from my perspective as well,” Krajicek added.

Overall, while Zach’s life hasn’t been completely normal, the people around him are proud to see how much he has overcome his struggle with diabetes, especially his mom.

“Zach has overcome more obstacles than we can count, but that has shaped the incredible young man he is today,” Lynnette said. “He has had to be responsible from a very early age. He has had to find good in incredibly difficult circumstances. Diabetes is a daily battle… our family prays every day for a cure.”

As for Zach, he also is proud of all the challenges he has overcome, but he hopes with the advancing technology that there’ll be a cure for his kids in the future.

“Type 1 Diabetes is a lifelong thing. As I get older, they’re starting to find new technology, but we’re still far from there,” Zach said. “I hope for at least my kids, who will have a higher chance of getting diabetes, there’ll be a cure soon. So for now I’ll just continue to make the most of it.”


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About the Contributor
Haley Kube
Haley Kube, Senior writer
Haley Kube is a senior and in her fourth year of journalism. She enjoys writing sports news, feature stories and making infographics.  Outside journalism, Haley is involved in student council, FBLA, basketball, track, football, NHS, and speech.
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