Saturday, January 29, 2011

Managing diabetes is a lot like dancing on a tightrope

Here's where I try to explain why diabetes is so stressful and time consuming.

I don't think it's something that can be imparted fully without experience, but what the heck - I'm gonna give it a shot. My hope is that my friends who don't have a child with diabetes will understand me a little better, because my friends who do have experience will know exactly what I'm talking about.

My eleven year old daughter has now had Type 1 Diabetes for 10 months. Type 1 Diabetes is frustrating to explain, partially because my daughter is the epitome of health. She's bubbly, energetic, enthusiastic, and outgoing. She always has a smile on her face, and has an amazingly carefree way about her. So when I try to explain why I need to stick close as she's exercising, hiking, under hot stage lights, or just wanted to eat a snack that no other kid would think twice about - I'm sure I'm seen as overprotective.

Okay, so maybe I am a little overprotective.

You must understand that managing diabetes is a lot like dancing on a tightrope. Control is critical and the slightest misstep can cause a disastrous fall. In fact, you don't even need to miss a step. Just as a gust of wind might blow a tightrope walker off balance, any change can affect a diabetics bloodsugar; heat or cold, adrenaline, stress, mismatched socks. I'm not even kidding. Any parent of a diabetic child will tell you that a good percentage of the time when things go badly, there's no reason for it. It just happens. And when it happens, as a parent, I want to be there because unless you live diabetes day in and day out, you won't care for my child as well as I do.

If she's in a class or group of kids, will you notice if she begins to look pale or sweaty? Will you remember that this is a sign that she needs to test her bloodsugar and get carbs into her system NOW? Will you remember that there's an emergency tube of frosting in her backpack in case she isn't physically able to drink juice? Will you be the one to open the orange Glucagon shot - which requires mixing powder with liquid - and give her a shot if she's unconscious? If you don't do all these things, and at least call 911 - how long will it take them to arrive?

Welcome to my world. The world of worry, of unknowns, of feeling like I constantly have to explain why I need special consideration for a kid who looks perfectly healthy. Where my enemy is complacency; mine, yours, everyone else's; because Sarah has never yet had a bloodsugar low enough to render her unconscious. She has had 3-4 that were scary low (40's - 50's) where I had to push a lot of carbs into her system to get her bloodsugar back up to a safe level. ANY of those could have led to something much worse, but didn't because I was there, poking her finger based on mama instincts and catching dangerous lows before they became ultra dangerous lows.

So, the next time you meet the parent of a child with Type 1 Diabetes, remember that if that child looks healthy, happy, funloving - it's not by accident, it's because loving parents and a responsible child are closely managing the child's bloodsugar, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. That healthy child is poked 5-10 times each day and receives insulin injections (through shots or a pump) 4 or more times each day.

It's not as easy as it looks folks. Truly.

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