Local teen's three-year battle against obesity is paying off



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Posted on February 5, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Updated Saturday, Feb 5 at 2:17 PM

His teammates know 8th grader Tyrell Cummings at "T."  He's a star on the Madrona Panthers team in Seattle.

"He's gotten better every year and this year he's our rock," said coach Justin Hendrickson.

Tyrell dreams of making the pro teams some day.

"My goal, probably like any other children's dream is to go in the NFL, or being in the NBA," said Tyrell.

It's a dream that seemed remote back in 2007, when he was just 10, and weighed 280 pounds. He developed type 2 diabetes.

His late grandfather first noticed warning signs of severe fatigue. Tyrell was rushed to Seattle Children's.

"They ended up keeping him in the hospital about two weeks," said Tyrell's mother, Shellise Montgomery.

Tyrell's weight had triggered the disease. Controlling it with insulin was frightening.

Montgomery recalls keeping track of his insulin levels during that time to control his diabetes, saying "You don't want to go to sleep at night, because, you don't know, they might go into a coma at night."

He had another little known complication of obesity, called Blount's Disease.

He was treated at Seattle Children's by Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Klane White.

"Tyrell's knee was quite bowlegged to the point where we couldn't even get both legs on one x-ray," said Dr. White.
For two years Tyrell needed implanted metal plates that helped his knees grow straight. Without the surgery?

"He'd probably have arthritis in his knee by 30 years of age. And he'd be needing a knee replacement," explained Dr. White.

Three years ago, while he dreamed of playing pro sports, Tyrell committed to a second dream.

"Not have diabetes, probably be skinnier, be a new person," he said in 2007.

With the help of others, he's closing in on that dream.

"It took a team approach. People that he looked up to. People that were responsible for him," said his mother.

Tyrell impressed his pediatric orthopedic surgeon.

"Tyrell took it upon himself to make himself healthier. And it's not an easy thing to do," said Dr. White.

His mother recalled how she worked with a nutritionist to change Tyrell's diet.

"I had to really put food in the refrigerator for him to eat like salads, a lot of fruits, a lot of vegetables."

His school nurse monitored his diabetes.  And his family encouraged him and worked with him to lose the weight. So did coaches, beginning with those who coached neighborhood Rotary basketball  and football teams.

His mother recalls an early coach "who took him when he was over 200 pounds, and said I'm gonna let you play basketball, and run up and down, and you're going to lose your weight."

Today at 6 feet tall and weighing 220 pounds, Tyrell said he feels stronger, and healthier.

"I feel very close to being that new person that I wanted to be three years ago." he said.

Tyrell's diabetes is not cured but he's determined to manage it one day with diet and exercise alone.