When the alarm goes off at 6:30 every morning, Rex Stillions is up and out the door for another jam-packed day of school and activities. There is no stopping the 18-year-old Bloomington South High School senior who is a stand-out student, varsity wrestler and longtime member of 4-H. His accomplishments are impressive for any teen, but are extraordinary considering Rex has type 1 diabetes.
“I wrestle, which is physically demanding, says Rex. “That shocks a lot of people who know I am diabetic. When my sugar is out of whack, I deal with it. I test my blood sugar six to seven times and give myself five insulin shots every day. It’s just what I do.”
His mother recalls first noticing problems when Rex was 11. “When Rex was in fifth grade he was always thirsty and getting up a lot to use the bathroom. I suspected it was diabetes, but hoped I was wrong. Our doctor confirmed my fears and immediately sent us to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health where we spent the next four days,” says Gina. Rex and Gina, along with his father Ricky, met with Riley endocrinologist Zeina Nabhan, M.D., and her team. They held the family’s hands through the transition into their new reality and continue to care for Rex today. “At first, I was afraid of not being the same as other kids,” says Rex. “Eventually I stopped caring and became my own person. Dr. Nabhan taught me that diabetes is part of my life, but it doesn’t define me.”
Rex quickly took ownership of his disease and began reaching out to other newly diagnosed children. “I think it’s important to tell diabetic kids that it’s going to be okay,” he explains. “You can do anything you want, but you have to get serious. You have to eat right; you have to check your sugar. If I didn’t deal with my problem then it would control my life.”
Rex is deeply involved in giving back through the Bloomington South High School Dance Marathon for Riley, and last year was a Miracle Maker for the event. “He is so active and involved,” said Gina while choking back tears. “Watching him makes me beam with pride. He is truly my hero.”