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When Hamburg's Markus Hinderberger perfected his swim strokes at Hamburg High School, he never dreamed that one day he'd be swimming for his life and that of others.

Today, Hinderberger has joined the "Swim to Drown Out Diabetes" team, rallying with his Hamburg neighbors and others to fight the big wave of new diabetes cases and to help current sufferers of diabetes, which kills about 200,000 people each year. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure and limb amputations, raising heart attack risk as the body cannot regulate blood sugar.

Hinderberger recently swam more than five hours across the lake -- from Crystal Beach to the USS Little Rock -- raising $23,000 for the American Diabetes Association, and he is training to do it again.

His swim will benefit a variety of free screenings to take place Nov. 1 in Hearthstone Manor, Depew.

"There is no such thing as having 'a little bit of diabetes,' " said Hinderberger.

As a representative of the pharmaceutical firm Bristol-Myers Squibb, Hinderberger, 30, "realizes what an epidemic we have in Buffalo-area neighborhoods. People are getting Type 2 diabetes in their 20s. I work with physicians, and I see patients all the time. Sometimes they don't have it under control. A lot of local people are working real hard to control diabetes.

"There are approximately 15.9 million people with Type 2 diabetes, a third of whom remain undiagnosed. My goal is to raise diabetes awareness and show how a balanced lifestyle of diet and exercise, such as swimming, can help avoid serious outcomes."

Type 2 diabetes gradually robs the body of its ability to use the hormone insulin.

Hinderberger says he's doing everything he can to make sure that he won't develop the disease, characterizing himself as a "very preventative kind of guy. I'm not afraid of seeing the doctor."

He's also not afraid of a little exercise, having competed in a triathlon. He trained with the University at Buffalo swim team to get ready for his cross-lake "Swim to Drown Out Diabetes." In the spring, he practiced by swimming in bone-chilling water. For the Lake Erie swim, one of his friends followed him in a boat, and another swimmer jumped in and swam with him every so often to keep him company on his 10-mile swim.

On the plus side, he didn't have to worry about sharks.

"But a huge barge did come out of channel -- and that was pretty scary," he recalled.

Wearing a wet suit, Hinderberger had to fight against boredom, singing to himself, and "thinking about everything possibly I could think of. It was long and boring. Thinking about people who can't do this, who may have diabetes, made it easier."

For more information on the Nov. 1 free screenings, call 835-0274, Ext. 3705.

Have an idea about a local person whose life would make a good profile? Write to: Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, 1 News Plaza, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240, or e-mail us at

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