It was February 1991 and Jay Hewitt was in his first year of law school at the University of South Carolina.
He felt like he had a bad case of the flu or maybe mononucleosis. He was rundown, weak and nauseous. His mouth and throat became extremely dry, and he lost a lot of weight in a very short period of time.
Hewitt's health woes became a health crisis when he had hallucinations, saw vibrant colors and lapsed into a coma.
"My brain was no doubt traumatized by the high glucose level in my bloodstream that had been there, probably for weeks," he said.
Hewitt, then 22 years old, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, now called Type 1 diabetes. Diabetes is a serious disease in which the body cannot properly control the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. In Type 1, the pancreas produces too little insulin; it is a chronic condition that lasts a lifetime.
While people with Type 1 diabetes vary in their reactions to the diagnosis, Hewitt became angry.
"I wanted to prove diabetes was messing with the wrong guy," he said.
Hewitt had no experience with endurance athletics, but he decided to run a marathon. After he did that, he learned about triathlons and set a goal to be a Ironman Triathlete. He eventually made the U.S. national team and competed throughout his 30s. He was the only person with Type 1 diabetes on Team USA.
The team competed in the world championships in 2004, '05 and '06. In '06, Hewitt and seven of his teammates set a record in the Race Across America event by crossing the country in five days, 16 hours and 4 minutes.
He is 46 years old now and has retired from the U.S. team, but he stays in shape by continuing to run and lift weights.
He is a lawyer, but he left his corporate law practice to work full-time as a motivational speaker. He will give a speech Friday morning at Genesis Medical Center-West Central Park Avenue, Davenport.
"I love, absolutely love, what I do. It's enjoyable and motivating to me to motivate others," he said.
Hewitt is married and the father of three small children, including a 2-month-old baby. The family lives in Greenville, N.C.
His message as a public speaker is how to overcome obstacles in life. Obstacles can be a health condition such as diabetes or other, personal difficulties such as going through a divorce, a career change or a loss.
Hewitt talks about how to set goals and how not to be afraid of failing. "To me, too many worry about failing, and they use it as an excuse not to try. Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed in what you didn't do than what you did do," he said.
"You have to have a vision of your finish line," added Hewitt, noting that his own finish line was making the U.S. Ironman Triathlon team. He ended up completing 14 triathlons (each involving a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run).
Hewitt hopes people will attend his speech to receive free motivation and ideas on how to improve their lives.
"They can figure out what finish line they can achieve," he added.