Eric Paslay and Diabetes: Getting to Know You

(Eric Paslay. Photo courtesy of Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com.)

If you’re a country music fan, you’ve probably heard of Eric Paslay, 33, a Nashville-based platinum-selling singer/songwriter. After starting to play guitar at age 15, Paslay knew by 18 that music was his path. In 2011, he signed with EMI Records Nashville, and since then he has had five number one hits, including four recorded by other artists such as Rascal Flatts as well as “Friday Night,” the lead single from his self-titled debut album. His latest album, Dressed in Black, includes the single “Angels in This Town.”

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A Texas native, Paslay was nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Song, ACM Song of the Year, and CMA Song of The Year for “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” in 2013, and he earned his first Grammy nomination as an artist in 2016 for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for “The Driver” with friends Charles Kelley and Dierks Bentley. Most recently, Eric was honored with a 2016 ACM Song of the Year nomination for “She Don’t Love You.”

In the last year, Paslay has joined friends Chris Young and Brad Paisley on tour, and over the summer of 2016, he toured with Toby Keith as part of The Interstates and Tailgates Tour.

Having Type 1 diabetes hasn’t slowed down his busy schedule. A longtime advocate for people living with Type 1, Paslay was diagnosed in 1993 at age 10, after his grandmother, a nurse’s assistant, noticed him drinking too many fluids. Committed to giving back to those living with diabetes, he regularly performs concerts and meets with campers at Texas Lions Camp for children with disabilities — a camp he attended as a child — and supports JDRF.

Paslay manages his diabetes with Dexcom CGM, a system that allows patients to control blood sugar levels through continuous glucose monitoring. In 2016, he was invited to join the Dexcom Warrior Program, which recognizes individuals who take control of their diabetes through proper glucose management and live life to the fullest without limitations. Paslay is working with Dexcom as a diabetes advocate to raise awareness of the benefits of CGM by sharing his personal experience with diabetes.

DSM: You seem to really enjoy giving back—when did you first get involved in diabetes advocacy, and why?

Eric Paslay: I just remember as a kid being a juvenile diabetic, it was always great to see people raising money for awareness and research. About seven or eight years ago, I started doing songwriter nights in Nashville that raised money for JDRF with my good friend Dylan Altman (an accomplished songwriter in his own right), whose brother passed away from complications of juvenile diabetes. Every year, we try to have a concert or fundraiser for JDRF. [The 2015 Concert for a Cause in Chattanooga sold out.] We get to do more and more every year — it’s really cool how that’s played out. We’ve raised more money each year. We wrote the hit “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” together, so we always have one song we share during our concerts. Now, working with Dexcom, it’s great meeting all these kids, and adults, with Type 1 diabetes.

DSM: You were diagnosed with Type 1 at age 10 and have said you hit some rough spots as a teen. What prompted you to decide to take good care of yourself and not let diabetes get in the way of your dreams?

Eric Paslay: I’ve always tried hard to take care of myself. I’ve always had great doctors and nurses who have educated me. As a kid, I went to a wonderful camp, the Texas Lions Camp, which for a week every summer opened for kids with juvenile diabetes. Great doctors came who really encouraged us to take care of ourselves. The more you take care of yourself, the better you feel. Diabetes doesn’t have to run your life. There are so many tools now; it’s just up to all diabetics to take care of themselves well…and chase whatever dreams they have.

DSM: Those dreams changed for you at age 18 — you went from wanting to become an endocrinologist to a musician. Now you’re helping kids with diabetes in a different way. Can you reflect on this change of heart?

Eric Paslay: My heart’s never changed; I think God just changed the path I was supposed to go down. I’ve always had a heart to take care of people. From helping others with juvenile diabetes hang on to now raising money and encouraging people through music. Now I get to sing and write songs and meet fellow diabetics. It’s wild, you never know where God is going to take the path. I can’t help grinning ear to ear.

DSM: It can be hard to stay on a schedule when you’re on the road. You’ve said having the Dexcom CGM allows not only you to see your blood sugar reading every five minutes, but also your tour manager and your wife (music publisher Natalie Harker) at home in Nashville. How has this helped you stay on track?

Eric Paslay: The CGM is amazing technology. On my phone, I can see my reading every five minutes. Instead of doing a fingerstick, the CGM sends the reading to my phone. My phone then sends all my information to my wife and to my tour manager. It really helps when I’m on stage — we catch a low blood sugar level before I can even feel any side effects. So the show gets to go on, and fans don’t even know. But the biggest thing for me and my wife is that she sleeps better at night, because if I go too high or too low, an alarm goes off on her phone. By the time she calls to check on me, I’m already up having juice and crackers. This is great for parents — they can sleep better at night and not be worried about their children’s safety or health. Having the Dexcom hooked up gives me the freedom to do whatever I need to do on any day &mdahs; to live my life. Regardless of a hectic schedule, I don’t have to change anything as long as I’m checking my phone. It’s mind blowing; I don’t have to wait till I feel funny and then stop and test my blood. And it gives you an up, down, or sideways arrow, indicating which way your blood sugar is heading. It’s kind of a GPS for your blood sugar level. I’ve had diabetes for 23 years. I dragged my feet for years on using this technology; now I’m kicking myself for not using it years ago! All those years I could have had better A1Cs. An awesome app shows me my A1C, a ballpark reading of my overall blood sugar health.

DSM: What’s your advice for kids — or adults — recently diagnosed with Type 1?

Eric Paslay: Your life isn’t over. You can chase whatever dream you want. Use the tools we’ve all been given. We’ve been born in a time in which you’re not going to die from juvenile diabetes. There are so many tools and so many people willing to help you and educate you in taking care of yourself. Some adults with Type 1 were prevented from making certain childhood memories because their parents feared for their health and wanted to keep them safe. Today, parents can watch their children’s levels from far away. I pursued music as a career and as a way to raise money for diabetes. In some ways, a lot of doors have opened in my life just because I have diabetes. For me, being one of the kids on the outside, drinking juice boxes in the nurse’s office and being on the sidelines, prepared me to go after my dreams. We’re never given anything we can’t handle — take what you’re given and use all the great technology available to stay healthy. Type 1 diabetes is not the end of the world. You can live life to the fullest. I’m living proof of that.

Want to learn how other celebrities are living with diabetes? Read about RaeLynn and Nick Jonas.