November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. It can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, and other health problems if it’s not controlled.
To be very honest, diabetes wasn’t something I knew much about before January 20, 2017. Everything that I thought I knew about diabetes went out the window on that day.
January 19, 2017, began and ended as every day in our family — talking, laughing, praying, school, busyness, etc. Everything was normal for our family of nine. We ate dinner and did all the things that we do before we put the kids to bed. My husband and I finally settled down to talk about the day.
As we talked, I noticed that my son had used the restroom three times in less than 20 minutes. After his third trip, I asked if he was feeling okay. He told us that he did. He went on to say that he just needed to go a lot tonight for some reason. I asked if he was hurting and he assured me that he was fine. We said goodnight and I told my husband that I was going to take him to his pediatrician in the morning because I was concerned that he may have an urinary tract infection. I was also wondering if I was being an overprotective mom.
The next day, I called the pediatrician and explained what was going on as I drove towards her office. She said bring him on in. Once we arrived, we were taken back immediately to see his doctor.
For those moms who may be wondering, he was a very healthy 13 year old with no health issues. He was up to date on his shots and he saw his doctor for his checkups as well as things in between, such as physicals for sports, flu shots, sick visits, etc.. We eat healthy.
Sodas, syrupy drinks, tons of candy or sweets, or anything that we feel leads to unhealthy eating habits and living aren’t included in our lives. Fast food wasn’t a something that we ate often. I enjoy cooking from scratch and using very healthy options. Water and milk are the encouraged drinks in our home with very few 100% juices that I personally research to make sure they are not filled with sugars. Vegetables and meat are the staples of every meal. He was very active. In January 2017, he was 5’9″ and was within his normal weight range.
His pediatrician requested a blood sample and once it came back, she requested a urine sample. We still assumed everything was going to, at worst, come back revealing that he had a urinary tract infection.
I still recall the moment our pediatrician peeked into the room and motioned for me to come outside. I still thought we were about to share a laugh at me overreacting. We walked into another room and as I reflect back on it, neither one of us said a word as we walked to the other room. That is very strange for us with our children’s pediatrician because she’s been a part of our family for almost 15 years so we always have stories to share or someone to discuss.
We walked into the room and she closed the door. She turned to me with tears in her eyes (she’s family in all the ways that matter) and said, “I am so sorry to tell you this, but he has Type One Diabetes. His glucose levels are in the six hundreds, and I need to admit him to the hospital immediately. If you hadn’t brought him in today, DKA would have started and he would have become very ill and potentially gone into a coma.
By then tears were running down my face, as well as hers, and I was shaking my head no. I instantly started to explain why it had to be wrong . . . He’s healthy. He eats healthy. He’s active. She was holding me and at the same time trying to explain that it’s not anything we did wrong. We spoke for a few more minutes and then we both knew that it was time to tell my son.
We walked back into the room. My husband and son were sitting there laughing and talking. I was screaming in my head, I don’t want this to be real in any way!!!!
My husband and son looked at my face and instantly became quiet. Our pediatrician started to explain everything to them, reassured my son that he is going to be okay and this is not his fault or ours. She explained his levels to him and that she needed to admit him to the hospital. After answering all of their questions, she started to make arrangements for him.
My son and husband both stood up, but my son reached me first. He looked at me and said, “Mom, God has us. We just have to keep trusting Him.” I was in his arms, crying.
Our journey with Type One Diabetes (T1D) began on January 20, 2017, when he was diagnosed by his doctor. We are nine months into this diagnosis, and the journey has been anything but predictable. My son has battled an infection that required three double root canals (his teeth were great before the diagnosis), one surgery, four months of antibiotics (18 pills a day), physical therapy, a knee brace, splints, drastic adjustments to the medicine he is supposed to take for diabetes, 24-hour monitoring of his levels, and so many other things that have affected our entire family.
Type One Diabetes and Type Two Diabetes are very different diagnoses and are managed in different ways. The one thing I have heard parents say across the board, regardless of the type of diabetes their child has, is that there isn’t enough information available on diabetes and the public isn’t properly educated on the disease.
My initial reaction was that I did something wrong as his parent. I was naive on how stressful this diagnosis would be for my son and for us. No one could help me understand that life was going to change for him in so many ways, and those changes were going to cause me to struggle with how to fix it. As his mom I couldn’t foresee that there would be times in the future when my son would become frustrated, angry, and in ways depressed, the more he endured from this diagnosis of Type One. I’m his mother!!! I protect him and help him. Yet I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t do any of the things in the ways I normally did.
I researched Type One and found that there is so much more work needed in bringing about awareness and education, advocating, getting restaurants everywhere to list the carbohydrates in each item they serve, convincing insurance and pharmaceutical companies to provide dedicated specialists who you can contact regarding your child’s care, and most of all — a cure! Currently, there isn’t a cure for Type One Diabetes. There are so many other health issues that can arise from Type One. The experiences of those who are diagnosed with Type One can all vary. No one even knows what causes this disease.
You may be wondering why I didn’t give you more statistics on diabetes or questioning the purpose of this entire article. Before writing this article, I never shared any portion of our journey with anyone outside of my inner circle. To be honest, I only shared the diagnosis with a very small group of people. Saying it aloud was too much to handle. The constant barrage of what ifs running through my head controlled me. I tiptoed around the subject with my son and cried secretly at night when everyone else was asleep. Nighttime found me sitting quietly beside his bed as he slept and just watching him. There were moments when I sometimes asked him to forgive me for failing him as he quietly slept.
It seemed as if our entire family drew closer together, but we never discussed the illness. Type One Diabetes was the elephant that rested on all of our shoulders. As more complications arose, the elephant became heavier until one day our children decided they were throwing the elephant out of our home.
We were in the bedroom checking our son’s level, and one by one the kids walked in. Up until that point, we noticed how they all found a way to leave the room during these times. We recognized that they were each struggling to understand so much. They strolled in and quietly stood as we checked his level. As we were discussing treatment options for his current low, they began to ask questions. What is a low? How do you check his level? Why did this happen?
As I searched for an answer to this question, which came from my six year old, our diagnosed son looked at me and said, “Because God knew I could handle it. He knew that we could handle it as a family.” He started to talk with his siblings while my husband and I sat quietly and listened. He answered their questions and also gave them information that he found by doing his own research. As he spoke, it seemed as if there was a monumental shift in the room. We all seemed to relax. Our son seemed to become stronger right before our eyes. We realized that until that moment, diabetes had us … but now, we had it.
Our kids are all knowledgeable about and conscious of the things our son has to do, what he has to monitor, and what to do in case of lows and highs. They all monitor his levels. Every single person ensures they choose birthday cakes that he can eat. When I’m stressing out over him being a few minutes late taking his nightly shot, my oldest son says, “Mom, chill out. He knows that he has to take it and he’s on his way. It’s just a few minutes. Ease up on him and yourself.” While I raise my eyebrow at him, it’s exactly the reminder that I need. It’s going to be okay.
My message to you is the same as the one my son gave me: It’s going to be okay. Before your child was Type One or Type Two, he (she) was your child and that will not change because of a diagnosis.
Here is my encouragement for you upon receiving a diagnosis of T1D:
- Unburden yourself of any perceived failure because you didn’t fail your child.
- Include your entire family in discussions about the illness because you need each other. At times, the best advice will come from the very little people you carried for nine months. When that happens, smile and pat yourself on the back. It’s okay to even insist that he or she thinks just like you.
- Inform your child’s school of his diagnosis. They will be able to assist you with getting a plan of care and a 504 in place to accommodate your child. They will include all of his or her teachers, nurses, cafeteria staff, administrators, etc. When my son was diagnosed, our family was blessed to have the most amazing school administrators and nurse in the world, in my opinion. We are still experiencing medical difficulties as a result of his diagnosis, but it only takes one email or phone call and I know, in this, we have the greatest support system in our school.
- Become involved in parent groups, local organizations, or anything that brings more awareness to diabetes. We are moms. Moms make things happen and don’t accept no as an answer. Use your voice to help bring change. Determine to do everything you can to help find a cure in your lifetime. Educate people that are misinformed about your child’s type of diabetes. Research and ask the doctors questions.
- Most importantly, remember that you are not alone.