Brooks Gammill approaches diabetes management the same way he approaches ice hockey – with focus and determination. Brooks is a freshman at Colby College where he is a forward on the men’s division three ice hockey team.
Only five years ago, at the age of fifteen, Brooks learned he had type 1 diabetes (T1D) after getting sick on a family trip in Florida. He knew nothing about diabetes and feared the diagnosis would limit his ability to play competitive sports. However, by working closely with his endocrinologist Dr. Rachelle Gandica and his team at the Berrie Center, Brooks is now performing at the top of his game.
Brooks is from New Canaan, CT and hockey is in the family DNA. Brooks and his brothers – Barclay, Briggs, Boden and Bauer all play hockey. They grew up playing rug hockey in the family’s basement and street hockey outside. At a local outdoor rink, The New Canaan Winter Club, Brooks says he really found passion for the game. Recently, in a storybook match up, Brooks’ team played Barclay’s team-- the Trinity College Bantams.
Brooks’ parents- Pam and Ken—are incredibly supportive. Never for a minute did they doubt that T1D would get in their son’s way. “I think T1D has just added another layer of responsibility to Brooks' everyday life,” Pam said. “Luckily, he has always been a responsible, organized, and conscientious boy.”
Added Pam, “When I watch Brooks play hockey I rarely think of him as a hockey player with TID. I think of him as a determined and gritty young man who continues to play a sport he loves.”
In between a very intense schedule that includes hockey practice and studying, Brooks took a moment to reflect with the Berrie Center on his approach to diabetes management and his hopes for the future.
Berrie Center: Can you give us a sense of what a day in your life is like during the hockey season?
Brooks: During hockey season at Colby, I usually have class in the morning until midafternoon. Before class starts I like to get a good breakfast in, usually packed with a decent amount of protein. I do the same for lunch and then before practice I like to have some longer acting carbs so I do not have to worry about my blood sugar dropping during practice. Practices are often very strenuous on the body, so after practice I make sure I get a good recovery in both physically and nutritionally.
Berrie Center: How do you manage your T1D during a game?
Brooks: I am fortunate to have a continuous glucose monitor that lets me know my blood sugar every 5 minutes. I take my monitor onto the bench with me and often check it once or twice a period to make sure my levels are where I want them to be.
Berrie Center: Do you have any go-to pre-game meals or snacks?
Brooks: I usually like to eat a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat, and then I usually have an assortment of protein bars that I like to have on hand.
Berrie Center: What strategies do you employ to make sure you are safe during practices and games?
Brooks: I always bring a Gatorade on the bench with me during practices and games. I also monitor my sugar trends the hour leading up until I am on the ice. If it is continually getting higher before on-ice time, I may make a small correction, but if I am trending down I often eat extra carbohydrates to make sure I’m at an optimal level to perform.
Berrie Center: What would you tell younger kids with T1D who hope to do what you are doing one day?
Brooks: I would tell kids to embrace adversity. Adversity is being told you have T1D and you are now chronically considered “ill”. However, if you take this adversity head on and use it as fuel to make you a stronger person, then this condition will be turned from a negative to a positive. I wouldn’t change a thing about what has happened to me because it has shaped me into the person I am today and these challenges allow me to grow.
Berrie Center: What are your goals for the future? The NHL?
Brooks: I am very interested in entrepreneurship and business. I ran a sports camp with my family for the past couple of summers and part of the proceeds went to T1D research at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center. However, I have started my own grill cleaning company that I am doing full time in the summers. I hope to expand this company and come up with ideas about new companies for the future. My dream goal later in life is to help companies fund research for diabetes and find a cure.
Follow Brooks Gammill on the Colby Men’s Ice Hockey page and stay up to date on his latest stats on the rink!