‘Blood sugar sisters’: Diabetic basketball players share special bond

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LA JOLLA, Calif. (KSWB) – Plenty of athletes pay attention to numbers on a stat sheet. But for UC San Diego women’s basketball forwards Kendal Ellenbeck and Emerson Herrmann, one number trumps most others on and off the court: their blood sugar level.

UC San Diego women’s basketball forwards Kendal Ellenbeck, left, and Emerson Herrmann, right, have formed a special friendship as they both manage life with Type 1 diabetes. (Provided photo)

“When I first got to the dorms that we stayed in for the first time, my mom was handing everyone stuff to bring in and then she happened to hand Emerson my juice boxes and she’s like, ‘These are Kendal’s low snacks,’” Ellenbeck said.

The comment caught her teammate off guard.

“Emerson was so confused and she said, ‘Low snacks?’ and then (my mom) said, ‘Yeah, Kendal’s a diabetic,'” she said.

“I’m just like, ‘Um, these look familiar,’” Herrmann said, laughing.

They call each other “Blood Sugar Sisters,” not just because they each have Type 1 diabetes but due to the numerous similarities they share. Ellenbeck and Herrmann both found out they were diabetic in elementary school. Now they are studying in scientific fields at the university.

They also share similar routes for practices and game days, each checking their blood sugar levels and maintaining a rigorous eating schedule.

“My doctors, when I was diagnosed, they did tell me, they were like, ‘There’s very little you can’t do because you have this now,’” Herrmann said, “and I kind of like took that with me and almost kind of wanted to be like a role model for kids who are diagnosed and like, you can do anything.”

The duo continue to see their roles expanded for the Tritons. Ellenbeck, a junior, has appeared in three games this season, scoring a season-high 5 points in 17 minutes in a loss to Cal Poly. She played in 23 of the team’s games last season.

Herrmann, a sophomore from Colorado, appeared in six games a season ago and hit a pair of free throws in the same game this year against Cal Poly.

The journey of a diabetic isn’t always easy, but for Ellenbeck and Herrmann, it helps to have a Blood Sugar Sister by your side.

“I have someone who knows exactly what I’m going through to be like, ‘Have you been through this before? Can you help me?’” Ellenbeck said.

“We sometimes compare our blood sugars and if we’re both the same number, one of our teammates will owe us a dollar,” Herrmann said.

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