I suddenly became the mother of a child with Type 1 diabetes in an odyssey that started on October 6th, 2008, when Eric was a toddler. Before that date, I'd noticed that Eric was peeing through his diapers at night, that he was really thirsty all the time in the evenings, and the possibility of diabetes had crossed my mind and was lurking there. But October 6 was the day Eric's daycare provider phoned me at work and told me she'd noticed he was thirsty all the time during the day, too. As soon as I got that info, I called the pediatrician and left a message — I wanted Eric checked out. All the drive home I was praying that we'd find out it was something else. But the next day, when I picked up my boys from the daycare en route to the pediatrician (Eric was 18 months, Nate was 3 1/2), I felt pretty sure what the verdict would be. And when Dr. Foster came into the room looking uncharacteristically anxious and said, "Well, Mom, you were right..." my heart just sank.
What I DIDN’T know was that he was already in serious trouble—diabetic ketoacidosis was underway, though you’d never know it to look at him, and the next stop on that train is a place no parent wants to go. I picked the boys up from daycare and went to the pediatrician thinking I’d get my diagnosis and go home with instructions to see an endocrinologist within the next day or two; instead, we were sent straight to the ER, do not pass go do not collect $200, met at the door by the pediatric endocrinologist on call, with me trying to keep Nate under control while listening to doctor explain what was happening, while the Dread Hamster of Parental Fear used my brain for a exercise ball. His blood glucose was 569, that much I remember, and his ketones were high too — the rest is something of a blur. Eric did well, even laughing when we were wheeled through the halls of the hospital on a gurney; considering how sick he was and how terrible he must have been feeling, it shows just how cheery his nature is. And of course Nate was with us and just loved it, although he kept doing little kid stuff like pointing at some guy on a stretcher who looked like he was having a heart event and saying loudly, “Mommy, is that guy REALLY TIRED?? Why’s he lying down?” Or at the person on chemotherapy: “Look, mommy, that guy has no hair!” (it was a woman. Aren’t kids great?) At one point Dr Olshan himself took on the task of keeping Nate locked down while the nurse was attending to Eric with my help, and he asked me if I’d ever before had a $200-an-hour babysitter. Which made me laugh, but also made me think about Eric’s less-than-stellar insurance coverage (but that’s another gripe for another day).
From there we went to the ICU, with tubes and wires and all that stuff. Mark took Nate home, while I got to stay to comfort my little pickle. What followed was an agonizing night in which I got no sleep, had to hold my screaming son down as ICU nurses drew blood and inserted IVs (I’ve threaded sewing needles bigger than his little veins, so it was torture to watch), and was wakened hour after hour to assist as they performed blood glucose and ketone tests. By the time they came for the 3 am round of testing, Eric was so exhausted he didn’t even wake when they stuck him... And I was little better, waking just enough to identify who it was leaning over my son before closing my eyes again. Thank GOD, Eric responded very well to the insulin—by mid-day he was practically back to normal.
We spent 2 1/2 days in the pediatric ward learning how to stick our child with needles, then came home to a completely new reality. We learned about insulin, we learned about needles, we learned about insulin pumps and all their assorted accessories; we learned about highs, lows, ketones, why an antiemetic is a good thing, and the many ways that insurance companies try to dodge paying the bill. I suspect we'll be learning more and more for years to come.
Eric's healthcare is paid for by MaineCare's S-CHIP program, which (perhaps counterintuitively) is generally pretty high quality. They cover most of what I need covered, and the few things they don't cover, aside from CGM — which is another rant for another day — are inexpensive enough that I can foot the bill. Zofran, ketone strips, stuff like that. The company they contracted with to supply Eric's insulin pump supplies, Bedard Medical, is very conscientious, and I have absolutely no…Continue
Today was the day! Our long-anticipated trip to the University of New England med student seminar on "Living with a Chronic Illness."
Eric got a half day of school and then he and I took off at noontime for UNE. He was excited, maybe a trifle apprehensive. I, having done this two years in a row, was pretty relaxed... right up till I realized that my brain-based navigation system was not as accurate as I thought, and I had to do a little fancy guesswork to get us where we needed to go.…Continue
Next week, I will be returning to the University of New England's Medical School to participate in their Friday seminar on living with chronic illness. It's a thing they do with their first-year students — each Friday, they focus on a different condition and invite patients in (along with an expert in the particular field) to describe what their experience has been dealing with the disease du jour. This is the third year I've gone to tell the collection of eager young med students what it…Continue
This morning when I dropped Eric off at daycare, I heard a sweet story that made my eyes tear up.
One of the women who oversees Eric's daycare, "Susan", is also a substitute teacher at his school. She was assigned to a kindergarten class last week. One of the students in that class, whom I'll call "Lucy", has diabetes and wears an insulin pump. I've seen Lucy a few times in the nurse's office, and let me tell you, folks, they don't come any more darling than this child: think masses…Continue
This is going to be a long blog post… but I woke up today feeling like I had to write it because I see so many people not understand the subject. And it’s important for people with diabetes — and parents of children with type 1 diabetes especially — to know what’s going on when ketones are present.
I see a lot of parents saying that high blood sugars and ketones go hand in hand, and that if you let your child’s blood sugar get…Continue