Paramedics return as Johnson episode gives Orioles scare

Diabetic pitcher revived in front of Bechler family

February 20, 2003|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Three days after rushing to Orioles spring training headquarters in the futile attempt to save pitcher Steve Bechler from heatstroke, the Fort Lauderdale Fire and Rescue Department was back yesterday, when pitcher Jason Johnson suffered a diabetic reaction.

Johnson, 29, recovered swiftly from hypoglycemia - low blood sugar - and was cleared to drive from the team's spring training complex. Johnson, who has Type I diabetes, has similar reactions to low blood sugar about once or twice a year.

Signs of hypoglycemia include dizziness, light-headedness and confusion. If left untreated, it may lead to unconsciousness.

"Everybody's obviously a little hypersensitive right now," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "You have those things with Jason, but it still scared the hell out of everybody."

Yesterday's situation took on a sense of the surreal, as four members of Bechler's family - his mother, Pat, two brothers and a sister-in-law - had shown up to watch practice several hours before the team's memorial service for Bechler.

At 12:45 p.m., the Bechler family sat in the dugout at Fort Lauderdale Stadium as Johnson was carried across the infield on a golf cart from one of the back practice fields. Johnson's eyes were open, but he looked groggy as he lay back in the cart.

Paramedics from the same crew that had worked on Bechler arrived at 12:49.

Orioles team physician Dr. William Goldiner, one of two doctors who tended to Johnson at the scene, said paramedics were called in case glucose had to be administered intravenously.

The Orioles' training staff used a tube of glucose paste to revive Johnson, who remained on the cart on a walkway outside the team's clubhouse.

Bechler's brother, Mike, stood a few feet behind as the paramedics rolled a stretcher onto the scene, but Johnson sat up under his own power at 12:59.

Johnson showered and walked out of the clubhouse around 2, declining to comment.

Johnson was diagnosed at age 11 with Type I diabetes. It is a condition in which the body does not produce insulin. The body relies on insulin to help process sugar for usage.

Johnson has regulated his condition with an insulin pump, but the Orioles pushed back their practice by two hours yesterday, allowing for team physicals on the first day the full squad was in camp. Hargrove said Johnson did not reset the pump to coincide with the different workout time, and Johnson's highly regulated eating schedule also was adjusted.

Asked when Johnson last had a hypoglycemic reaction, Goldiner said they happen repeatedly. "This one happened to be very severe," Goldiner said.

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