This was written on the 3rd day (Jan 1st 1998) of my stay in the hospital. Everytime I read this I get teary eyed. My mom is an amazing woman and was with me through the entire ordeal.
Tuesday December 30, 1997 – 2pm
Admission Room #351
Lara went to the pediatrician as an afterthought tag-a-long to an older sister’s tangible complaint. I knew this pale, quant looking, lethargic ten-year old was not the Lara I’d known a couple months ago. But we reasoned growth spurt, braces – making eating difficult, a bad bout with a flu bug mid-fall…
Her temperature at the doctor’s read 96 and he just credited her quietness to personality quirks and a sedentary lifestyle. He did decide to run some blood work to rule out a couple of obvious problems. He also did a precautionary urinalysis.
Those results are where this begins, though the symptoms now are obvious – extreme thirst, personality change, tiredness, nausea, stomach pains, blurry vision, and dramatic weight loss. And now, a number of people remark on their unspoken observations of her physical appearance over the last few weeks.
But that one urinalysis was the start – though to Lara it had started weeks ago – of both a medical crash course and achieving and maintaining a return to the bright-eyed, active little girl I had not seen for some time now.
The results caused an apparent concern to both the doctor and the nurse, and brought the doctor back into the exam room to change his blood test request. He wrote and pondered and wrote – asked his nurse the technical name of a particular test, and wrote some more. My query brought the word out in the open but he did not give details at that point – just directed us to the lab and instructed us to return to his office to wait for the results.
Lara was typically complaint, but unusually quiet and clingy – as she had been for a couple of months now; and we were back in his waiting room within twenty minutes. The wait for the lab results would have seemed much longer and more ominous if I had suspected the diagnosis with any sense of reality. An antibiotic or maybe iron supplements were the remedies I expected to choose from.
When the call came, I was directed to the pediatrician’s office – OFFICE! This had come to be known as the “not so good news” place. His exact words are lost in this ocean of memories of the past couple of days, but that one word came up again and he mentioned a hospital stay of a couple days.
All right. We’ll go home and arrange a near-in-the-future to our local facility…When the nurse asked if I needed to call anyone, it started to come into focus: DIABETES, HOSPITAL – NOW, CRITICAL.
Arrangements were made in a stupor, for care of the other three girls – fortunately old enough to at least understand the words and actions, if not the implications – and the stunned parents met and went through the process of emotionally and physically giving our baby to another’s care and God’s will.
We didn’t find out until the second day that the first count had been 501, though our total ignorance would have made it meaningless.
Lara’s emotions through all this were linked to an episode she’d seen of the television show “Rescue 911” just the night before, where a daughter had called to save her father’s life after an unfortunate incident involving his decision not to eat after taking his insulin. So her only connected thoughts were of unconsciousness and emergency. The only other place she had heard the word was on a commercial for medical insurance for the elderly. This does not constitute a very relevant frame-of-reference for a newly diagnosed ten-year-old!
Admission to the hospital was fairly uneventful, followed by the usual verbal interrogation and physical calculations. In addition, Lara was put on an i.v. to pump fluids into an apparently severely dehydrated little body. She lay quietly and accepted little pokes, probes, and sticks in such a quiet and matter-of-fact manner that earned her the name “little trooper” by the end of the first day of our stay. The things that were done the first day are just tiny thoughts in a fog right now; it was all so foreign to me.
A family history would have made this all make sense, and knowing the mechanics of how someone else was dealing with this on a daily basis would have really been an asset in the acceptance and comprehension of what was happening. But with no history closer than four generations away, the reality was hard to swallow. Not being aware of the symptoms brought what is apparently a normal sense of guilt. And having no previous knowledge of this disease – yes, someone actually used that word the second day – the nurse’s routine care of Lara as a diabetic were both meaningless and overwhelming.
I can only hope that every parent of a diabetic child has as understanding and patient group of professionals as we had, helping them and their child to grow into a crash medical course of knowledge and a comfort level of dealing with this totally new and potentially life-saving routine.
My biggest comfort, besides knowing that God is in control through so many little “coincidences” in this situation, is the realization that thousands of parents have been where I am right now, felt what I felt, know as little as I know, and have come out the other side with a healthy child.
The second day was just a basic monitor – and adjust day. A longer-than-intended lunch threw what had been a 230-250 level up to 357. The importance of meal regularity hits home quickly. But Lara’s overall demeanor and color were so dramatically improved overnight that we have to know that anything we have to do is worth getting back the child that has been our Lara.
By the second night, the attempted absorption of information from three specialists and a stack of paper leaves me drained enough to sleep through the night. Since day three will be the beginning of nurse’s training for both Lara and I, it is a very good thing that we both had a good night’s sleep. She now measures and records her own urine output; a small step on the road to teaching my “baby” to be an independent, responsible diabetic.
Watching that little face on the pillow and looking at those now-thin little arms and wrists, one supporting her still inserted – just-in-case – i.v. catheter, it’s still hard to digest and accept that when we get home, no day will ever be the same as when we left. And there are three other children whose lives will be affected by their sister’s few days in the hospital in a way that goes far beyond just being without Mom for a little while.
How much to tell whom is a confusing concept right now. Trusting her teacher with her care until things are stable is a constant heaviness; but first I need to get through today’s lessons.
After the insulin-action charts and food lists and reaction signs of yesterday, the mechanical do-it lessons of today may seem a welcome break.