October 24, 2014

Elyria
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Fight of a lifetime: Bruck hasn’t let diabetes stop her

The 2010 volleyball season may be over, but there is a battle University of Michigan redshirt junior Karlee Bruck fights every day, with no timeouts or changeovers.

Karlee Bruck (6), a 2007 Elyria High graduate, celebrates with a Michigan teammate during a match this season. Bruck, a redshirt junior, was diagnosed with diabetes as  a freshman, but fought hard to return to the court. She now plays with an insulin pump.

Karlee Bruck (6), a 2007 Elyria High graduate, celebrates with a Michigan teammate during a match this season. Bruck, a redshirt junior, was diagnosed with diabetes as a freshman, but fought hard to return to the court. She now plays with an insulin pump.

During her freshman year at Michigan, Bruck, a middle blocker, went to a preseason tournament in Hawaii. But as the team prepared for the season, Bruck and the coaches noticed her game was not quite where they expected it to be. The harder she tried to recover her style of play, the worse the physical toll became.

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“I was still having symptoms of dehydration and I just attributed that to being in a new atmosphere and not adapting,” said Bruck, a 2007 Elyria High School graduate and second-team All-Ohio selection as a senior. “It seemed like everything was a little over my head with what was going on. Progressively, it got a lot worse. I was having trouble seeing. I was using the restroom all the time. I was very fatigued and tired regardless of how much sleep that I got.

“Finally, when I got back to Ann Arbor and we started practicing again, my coach and my trainer ended up asking me if I would possibly have an eating disorder.

“To me, I thought that was pretty funny because me and food, I love it,” she added. “He said he was obviously concerned because he could tell I was losing a lot of weight and I wasn’t as physical as he had experienced when he recruited me. He and the trainer talked me into going to the doctor’s. I was very bull-headed and I always say things are fine if I’m not feeling very well. I like to play it off and pretend like everything’s OK.”

After describing her symptoms to the team doctor, Bruck headed to the hospital for blood work. That’s when she got the answer to what was bothering her. It was one she never expected to hear.

Diabetes.

“I freaked out for a couple seconds, but then, it was more-so oriented to how to make the situation better because I was really ill,” Bruck said. “They told me they needed to get me to the hospital as soon as possible and they ended up putting me into one of their emergency vans and took me to the hospital where they gave me insulin and all the hydration.

“I was in the hospital for about a week and they finally got me back up on my feet, but I wasn’t allowed to play or do anything yet because it was a brand new disease and I still had no idea what it was or how to take care of myself, let alone deal with it during volleyball. They put me through a whole bunch of classes with a couple university nurses. Finally, after a year of classes, going to the hospital and getting blood work done and figuring out how I was going to rearrange my life and get back on track, I was able to start playing.”

Once she understood the situation and the potential challenges that could come from living with diabetes, Bruck put in extra time and work to return to the court.

She plays with an insulin pump, which helps control her blood sugar during play. Former Cleveland Indians pitcher Jason Johnson played with an insulin pump on the backside of his belt. However, on the volleyball court, diving for a dig or jumping for a block with an insulin pump can provide some unique challenges.

“A couple of people that I know that are diabetics kind of laugh and ask me how I do it because they actually take their pumps off during games and practices, but I found something that works,” Bruck said. “I just take my pump and hook it onto the back of my spandex. It’s kind of on the side, but I do end up playing with it because I do feel more secure. Usually, after practices, all the adrenaline gets my blood sugar really high. It’s kind of a security blanket knowing I can get some sort of insulin throughout the games to regulate me and get me on a normal blood-sugar rate.

“That just goes back to me being very stubborn,” she continued. “I didn’t care if it was going to hurt or not. I wanted to play volleyball again so bad that I said, ‘If it breaks, I’ll just get a new one.’ My parents probably would’ve killed me if they knew that. I realized I couldn’t wear it on the side and couldn’t really wear it on my shirt or anything like that. Putting it on the back of the spandex, on the inside part of it, it secured it there.”

Bruck finished this season with 44 sets played, 68 kills, eight defensive digs and 29 blocks. She helped the Wolverines post a 23-10 overall record, a 12-8 mark in Big Ten Conference play and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Because they stuck by her during the initial diagnosis and treatment, Bruck will continue giving everything she has for the maize and blue.

“Words can’t even explain it for me,” she said. “They could’ve been, ‘This is too much to handle, so find somewhere else. We’re going to take your scholarship.’ But they cared about me as a person and I think regardless of what happened, they wanted to help me through stuff. I’m just eternally grateful.

“It’s funny because my dad and I always talk about it. Being from Ohio and growing up as a huge Ohio State fan, my dad always gives me a hard time about coming to Michigan. Nowadays, whenever I talk to him, he’s like, ‘I have nothing bad to say about Michigan. They took care of my little girl.’ The rest of my family and I are eternally grateful to the University of Michigan, to the coaches, to the players, everybody that helped me get through that rough patch in my life.”

News and Notes

Rochester Institute of Technology senior outside hitter Jessica Schaffer (Keystone) earned Division III Northeast Region honors from the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) after having 548 kills and 409 defensive digs. She had double-digit kills in 32 of 38 matches this year. She previously earned All-Empire 8 honors and was an AVCA All-American in 2007.

(bullet) Lauren Percival (Amherst) recently completed a standout sophomore season with the Mount Vernon Nazarene University volleyball team. She was a first-team American Mideast Conference selection and the AMC Setter of the Year. During the regular season, she ranked third in the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) with 1,662 assists. In addition to the sets, Percival had 590 defensive digs, 95 kills, 47 aces and 49 blocks.

(bullet) The Marietta men’s basketball team defeated John Carroll University in a weekend matchup and holds a 14-2 overall record. Sophomores Mark Homenik (Avon Lake) has seen action in five games.

(bullet) Findlay sophomore forward Tai Dotson (Elyria) was part of the Oilers’ NCAA Tournament team of a year ago and is having a solid second season. In 15.4 minutes per game, Dotson, Lorain County’s Miss Basketball in 2009, is averaging 7.3 points and 5.9 rebounds. She has connected on 43-of-68 field goal attempts.

Contact Matt Florjancic at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.