I am fortunate that I was always Jen first and a diabetic second. I have recently learned the words the endocrinologist said to my parents in the hall of the unit to which I was admitted with insulin dependant diabetes (IDD) were, “It is okay to cry, just don’t ever do it in front of your child.” Much to my 10 year old delight, a pretty blonde young nurse to come visit me; and she had diabetes. It turns out that you don’t have to be ugly just because you “catch the diabetes bug”. In retrospect, I think that nurse, whose name I do not recall, had an impact on why I made the career choice I did.
As a college student studying abroad in Costa Rica, I had the pleasure of breaking my insulin pumps motor and being transported by boat, by ambulance, and then by taxi back to the capital to receive treatment for the multitude of insulin I received in the malfunction. If I were not diabetic, how else would I have learned how to get a piece of medical equipment from customs in a foreign country that did not believe I needed to have it? Furthermore, in my first week of nursing school I was in the ER for a blood sugar I could not lower at home. I was assigned as the patient of an attending who insisted stress could not cause DKA, but instead I must have a drug or alcohol problem to which I would not admit. Sadly for him, the screen of my urine and blood was negative (and I was vindicated). This too was a good experience because it taught me to always listen to the patient despite your prejudices---just because you think you know it all does not mean that is the case. As a nursing student, I was assigned a 4 year old and been an IDD for about 2 months and was in DKA. His mother sat on the end of his bed my entire shift crying because she was mourning the loss of her healthy child. How does one explain to a mom that she needs to overcome her feelings for the better of the child? Caring for the patient and his mother made me so grateful for the simple words that endocrinologist spoke to my parents, for it changed my entire outlook on life without my knowing it.
My parents never in any way expressed to me that my diabetes was a tragic or regrettable event. It was simply one event from which we would learn, grow, and adapt. That is what I have done for the past fourteen years, for better or worse, through elementary school, sports, high school, my first love, and my first love lost, trips across the globe, two college degrees, moving thousands of miles from my family, and hundreds of experiences I have had simply because I was given a gift by the diabetes fairy. So many others receive a diagnosis that is fatal. I see it every day. I am fortunate, you see, I am simply Jen, the nurse, the daughter, the Godmother, the friend, the dog lover, who just so happens to be diabetic.