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.
It's almost a cliche to say that the most annoying response people make to learning your child has Type 1 diabetes is to say, "Is that the bad kind?" To everyone in the know, that level of ignorance is bothersome on many levels, which we can summarize via the various responses that pop into my head (and sometimes out my mouth, depending on how annoying the questioner seems):
• "Well, there IS no 'good' kind of diabetes."
• "If you mean, does he need to take insulin for the rest…
I have a friend on Twitter who is a type 1 diabetic. We "met" by virtue of the fact that he is a friend in real life of one of my good real-life friends, with whom I communicate regularly on Twitter. He asked me a few questions about how I manage my son's diabetes and I learned, via the (non-public) discourse that followed, that he was extremely limited in his ability to manage his D due to financial constraints.
Like: he was allotted 1 test strip per day.
Just a quickie...
For those who remember my Monkey Adjusting post about Nate and his jealousy of the "attention" Eric gets due to diabetes, I *am* working on a kids' book based on the concept. But in the interim, I figured I had better reinforce the message.
I'm in process of transitioning Eric out of his pump shirts — which are shirt that I…Continue
I recently discovered a blog called Hyperbole and a Half that is really pretty wonderful — not only is the writing good but the blogger illustrates the posts with fun little scribble drawings that somehow capture the essence of everything in the post just perfectly. Today's post, "Menace", was all about how the blogger discovered the nature of power — and how addictive it could be — at age 4 by means of a dinosaur…Continue
Five years ago today, I had a cute 18-month-old toddler who was peeing through his diapers, chronically thirsty, and uncharacteristically cranky. And I was in a panic as I took him to his pediatrician for…Continue