OKLAHOMA CITY - You can’t tell by the pictures or the successful life Gage Bower leads. He is a high school athlete, is at the top of his class and thinks his mom can sometimes be a little over the top.
"I thought she was being a little dramatic at the time,” he said.
But now, he knows his mother’s intuition is what saved his life.
"The way he was acting was different. He's not a hateful kid or rude,” said Bower's mom, Jaime Wooten. “He's always been a good kid. One day, I was having him do something, and he kind of bit my head off, which was unlike him."
Wooten wanted to brush it off as a 16-year old-boy just testing his boundaries, but she knew better.
"He came in and apologized and hugged me, and when he hugged me, I felt like I was hugging a skeleton,” she said.
The next morning, she took Gage to the emergency room and he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Doctors immediately put him on insulin.
"Before I eat, I have to check my blood sugar and take insulin,” Gage said. “I have to prick my finger, and squeeze out some blood and put it in my meter and see how my blood sugar is, and if it is high, I'll have to take my carb ratio and lower my blood sugar to even that back out to normal."
But he hasn’t let it stop his normal routine. Now 18, Gage is the exception.
"He's not let diabetes hold him back in any way,” OU Children’s Doctor Minu George said.
George specialized in childhood diabetes. His patients range from infants and toddlers to high school seniors, including Gage.
While Gage may be an exception, he is certainly in good company.
Doctors have seen a steady increase in juvenile diabetes in Oklahoma. Genetics play a large role, but there are still questions.
"Type 2 with the obesity epidemic, we're seeing more of, but even Type 1,” Dr. George said. “There is more Type 1 diabetes and we don't know why."
Type 2 can be attributed to obesity. It is usually treated with pills and can even be reversed with diet control and exercise, but Type 1 can strike anyone.
"Type 1 diabetes happens in young people, and it is due to an autoimmune process where the body thinks that the pancreas is not part of itself,” Dr. George said. “It starts attacking it and destroying it.”
Warning signs include constant thirst and urination, unexpected weight loss, and with Type 2, darker patches of skin discoloration can appear around the neck.
"In sports I felt more dehydrated,” Gage said. “My mouth would get dry every time I ran a forty. So I'd have to go get a drink of water."
Though the young athlete may seem like a fearless teen, he has had a few scares, but they're nothing he or his mom can’t tackle together.
"I'm not like most parents who stalk their children's phone, I stalk his glucose meter,” Wooten said.
"You wake up and you're sweating, but you're not necessarily hot. You get the cold sweats pretty much and start shaking a little bit. You can't really go to sleep,” Gage said. “So you have to go to the pantry steal some food. Go back to sleep."