Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sarah's story - a teenager with diabetes (Age 14 edition)

Wow, three years ago I was blogging like a madwoman. Diabetes was all-consuming and it really was difficult to think about much else unless I vomited all my thoughts, fears, and experiences here.

Then: I had an elementary school student newly diagnosed with diabetes. I had nurse issues, child issues, teacher issues. We had scary lows, scary highs, and gray hairs popping out every which way. We had high ketones (still a little wary of vacation, as they always seem to happen there), and emergency room visits.

And while I know we will continue to have our struggles, Sarah will have sick days here and there, and diabetes will continue to throw curve balls our way on occasion, I feel like we've made it to that point where I never though we'd be. To a place where diabetes is in the background of our lives.

Don't get me wrong. Sarah still has diabetes. She still counts every single carbohydrate she puts into her mouth. She still checks her blood sugar an average of 12 times every day. She makes choices to not eat foods she knows will make her feel icky later. She has highs (hit 300 on Halloween - and she didn't even eat candy!). She has lows, but our master low catcher, Scouty Wompus (her amazing diabetes alert dog) lets her know WAY before she's low enough to feel it - and as a result she's begun to look forward to the lows because it's so much fun to reward Scout and watch him get all crazy excited.

So what's Sarah up to?

She's a high school student - getting excellent grades (A's and B's). She loves taking Scout to school. She even started taking him to P.E. all the time, and lunch on occasion (we'd originally planned for him to stay in a kennel during P.E. and lunch). She enjoys sitting on the grass with him during lunch, and she says he helps motivate her to run during P.E.. Of course, there was that one time he stopped during the run to poop, but that's all part of having a diabetes alert dog.

Sarah loves school. She's in an amazing choir with a fantastic choir teacher. Her language arts teacher is young and funny and she's rediscovered a love of literature this year. P.E. is super fun because she's the only one with a goofy yellow Labrador participating in each activity. Health is entertaining because she generally knows more than the teacher (ask her about the time a child told the class he'd been "dissected"). And of course she enjoys her theater class, and can't wait until auditions for the spring musical.

She's still very involved in community musical theater. Sarah has been involved in theater since she was 7 years old, so over half of her life now. She recently had the opportunity to play the part of Ariel in a local kids production of The Little Mermaid - produced by Musical Mayhem Productions. It was a fantastic production and so many kids wanted her autograph and to take pictures with her after each show that there were long lines! And diabetes was never a problem as Sarah did an amazing job of eating well, checking bg regularly, and keeping on top of her health to ensure she was fit to perform.

Without those pesky lows (Scout generally warns her in the low 80's), her A1c is slightly higher than it's been over the last couple of years, but still in the high 6's, so we're happy with that. 

Last month we traveled to Southern CA for an amazing conference on diabetes alert dogs. Sarah, Scout and I had a BLAST. It was a weekend of learning and fun, and we made new friends and reconnected with old friends. Sarah even got to share some of her school experience with parents who are new to the DAD world and still trying to figure out what taking a DAD to school will really be like.

And here we are. We've made it through October, and we're in November - Diabetes Awareness Month. I'm aware that Sarah is probably unusual for a teenager. She's easy-going about diabetes. She's actually kind of proud that she has something that makes her a little different. She and I have always been close, so we don't generally get into arguments, and Sarah has always had a desire to be healthy so she really is invested in taking care of herself.

If I have any advice for other parents with younger children who will eventually be teenagers, it would be this:
  • Teach them the basics, but don't overwhelm them. They don't need to be threatened with the worst consequences. Let them be kids.
  • Only let them take on the tasks they are truly ready for. Don't force them to check, count carbs, bolus and change pump sites when they're home - they do this all day at school. Let home be a place where they can take a break from diabetes (i.e., you do it for them as long as they'll let you)
  • Try not to stress. I really believe our children can feel our stress and they generally react poorly to it. Yes, diabetes can be scary, but if we are calm and keep it real and simple, they can be calm about it too.
  • Ask for help when you need it, and encourage your child to do the same.
Having a teenager with diabetes does not have to be the nightmare that you've heard about. For some it will be, absolutely, because all kids are different and some will be more difficult than others. But don't let it be a self-fulfilling prophesy by assuming it will be horrible. Your child can probably read your fears and emotions better than you think. So my advise is to keep it positive as much as possible. Try to find the good in every day, and where something related to diabetes offers a fun time, or a special experience - take it.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Where I attempt to make sense of T1...

The most difficult aspect of type 1 diabetes to explain is why it’s so all consuming. It really is. Even though my daughter has a busy, fulfilling life, we’re always aware that we’re just a 

1. Illness, 

2. Pump failure, 

3. Bolus failure, 

4. Bad insulin, 

5. Pump site failure, 

6. The million other things that affect blood sugar 

away from a trip to the ER or even the ICU.

And here’s the best way I can think of to explain it.

First, know this about blood sugar. If you don’t have diabetes, your blood sugar most likely sits at a comfortable range somewhere between 80-120 all day long. No matter what you do or eat. You could indulge in a whole cake (think Matlida), and YOUR pancreas would distribute the perfect amount of insulin to keep up with your intake of carbohydrates as easily as a hare keeps up with a tortoise. Your pancreas could hop circles around your food intake while crocheting crocodile slippers and not miss a beat. Your pancreas is on perfect cruise control, doing exactly what it needs to do to keep your blood sugar in perfect harmony with your body’s needs. 

However, if you DO have type 1 diabetes, there is no cruise control because your pancreas, for purposes of making insulin to keep up with…life, is a glob of useless cells. And your throttle is inconsistent, and your gas and brake are completely psychotic. People still ask me sometimes what my daughter’s fasting glucose or base blood sugar is. 

Important note: People with type 1 diabetes don’t have a base blood sugar. Let me say that again… There’s no such thing as a “fasting glucose”, or a “normal”. There is no normal. Why? Because for someone with type 1, blood sugar is completely a product of human intervention, 100% of the time.

When people state that insulin is life support, that sounds pretty melodramatic,  –but, well, it really is! I mean, it’s not like a ventilator where flipping a switch could result in near instant death, but it’s still what keeps people with type 1 diabetes alive day after day. And it’s not at all like other required medication, because a person with type 1 needs it all the time. It’s not just about food. Every body needs insulin to keep going, like you need air to keep going. Just as you breathe in oxygen every few seconds, a person with type 1 diabetes has a constant need for insulin – and the fun part is, the amount of insulin needed changes constantly depending on activity, exercise, stress, food, state of mind, time of the month, illness (that’s a biggie), etc.

Type 1 requires you to be (I’m gonna start making up words now, ok?) proreactive. You can’t be completely proactive with type 1 diabetes, because there’s no way to 100% accurately predict how her body will respond to the amount of synthetic insulin working through it. So you are also constantly reacting to changes in blood sugar.

And you can only proreact when you have information. Information which comes in the form of about 10-15 drops of blood every day that result from stabbing a sharp object into a finger and feeding the meter (Ours is named Audrey II – anyone get the reference?).  

Type 1 diabetes is intense, and perfection is completely elusive. And when you see someone with type 1 diabetes who is doing amazing things, who is full of life and vigor, and who is smiling and happy and healthy – that is the product of a BOATLOAD of work that person (or their parents, or both) put into staying healthy – 24 hours a day, no… 1,440 minutes a day of work. 

That's why people with type 1 are so  awesome, because they manage life while simultaneously managing a very challenging health condition. And most of them make it look easy. Cause they're just amazingly awesome like that!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Unpredictability, thy name is diabetes...

I'm nervous.

Each night I set alarms to check on my little girl. I wake on my own more than once and put a hand on her forehead, just to make sure it isn't clammy. I methodically check her blood sugar meter daily to make sure she's checking as much as she should (she still isn't checking before PE, I lost that battle), and to make minor adjustments to her insulin regimen.

The truth is, she's doing amazing. Diabetes wouldn't BE diabetes without highs and lows. But we haven't seen anything over 250 or under about 75 in weeks, and it's kinda creeping me out.

We've been here before, a lot really. We'll have spectacular weeks, months. Everything works great! Right up until the moment it doesn't.

That's the crux of diabetes. Most of the time it looks easy, and sometimes it actually is. But we're always walking a tightrope. We get better at it, sure. But we can't always be prepared for which direction the next gust of wind will hit. 

Last December we were having a great time, spent the day in Disneyland having tons of fun. Blood sugar was perfectly fine. Scout was alerting like a champion. At some point, Sarah started to feel off, and within a few hours she was sick. Well, not sick, but SICK!!

I'll paint a picture. My beautiful girl who had been smiling and laughing and having fun all day was suddenly puking. And then she was lying on the floor sweating. She literally had to be carried because she didn't have the strength to move. All this from what? A bug? Something she ate? We still have no idea. But she went from healthy to the absolute opposite of healthy so fast it left my head spinning.

And that's why, even when everything seems perfect, I can't forget that it can all change in a heartbeat. I am not even a worrier, and I worry. I'm not a fretter, but I fret. I'm a mom who knows that this tightrope is only as strong as circumstances allow. I know hard times are ahead, I just don't know when they'll hit, or what the catalyst will be (if any, it's diabetes after all - and it doesn't really need a reason to be a poophead). 

And I guess that's really what keeps a small part of my brain in a near constant tissy, the knowing without a shadow of a doubt that we will see scary highs, scary lows, ketones, etc. Diabetes and the challenges it brings are inevitable. 

It's the one thing I can't do nearly enough to protect my daughter from. And I hate that there's anything in this world I can't protect her from. 

I'm mom. My job is to keep her safe and healthy. How can I do that with a stupid disease that doesn't play fair? 

The world isn't fair. Yes, world - I got the message. Truly. I did.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Diabetes is not the boss of us

Sometimes you just have to make a decision that isn't dominated by diabetes. Like when your 13 year old wants to go to a favorite restaurant that you haven't been to in a year BECAUSE of diabetes. Diabetes is not supposed to have so much control over our lives, but sometimes out of sheer necessity, and requirement for sleep, we let it have more control than it deserves. 

I'm sure I'll hear from those who agree that people with diabetes can eat anything, and those who are horrified that I periodically dose my daughter for near 200g of carbs for a single meal. Someday she will be grown and she can make her own decisions about what to eat, and I MUST prepare her not just for chicken breasts, salads, and rolls - but for Chinese, Mexican, and desserts. How else will she learn how to keep her bg from crashing and then spiking into the stratosphere if we don't work through it together.

And for crying out loud, she's a 13 year old kid and I refuse to allow diabetes to rule her life. Got that diabetes? You. Will. Not. Win!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What is the right age for a diabetes alert dog?

Someone recently asked a question about what is the right age for a child to have a diabetes alert dog (and I suppose this would be accurate for many types of service dogs), and what is the right age for a child to take a dog to school.

I imagine you could ask 10 people and get 10 different answers. This is a touchy subject, but I’ll give you my opinion and experience.

First, I think
 that most kids before high school would have a difficult time handling a dog in school full time. Sarah began taking her dog part time at the end of junior high, but he only went 2-3 days per week, and for only a portion of the day. And she had a back-up to keep Scout on days he didn’t go to school or to pick him up if needed. She has no trouble taking him to high school, and so far it’s been a positive experience for both of them. She’s outgoing and theatrical anyway, so having a DAD draw attention to her is not an issue. We have a full size crate at school in a secure and supervised location, and Scout goes into his crate during PE and lunch.

I do think that DAD’s are fine for younger children where the parent is the handler, and the family already has a good grasp of diabetes management AND a real understanding of how much work having a DAD really is.

Absolutely the most important thing is the child (and I’m talking about DAD’s for older children/teens, not small kids). The child has got to be fully invested and really understand what having a DAD means. The very best thing we did for Sarah was to have her volunteer with Guide Dogs for the Blind for over a year before we brought Scout home. She got to experience puppy sitting dogs who were more difficult to handle than a fully trained DAD. She kept the dogs overnight, took them to the grocery store, fed them, picked up their poop, took them on walks and went through grooming and continuing training. I figured if she could do that for a year and not get tired of handling smelly poop and having a dog attached to her, she was ready to have a DAD. But it had to ultimately be her choice because SHE is the handler, and having a DAD is a 24/7 responsibility. Of course we support and help her, but if Scout gets a tummy ache and vomits during Geography – Sarah’s going to be cleaning. And when she feels gross because her bg is high or low, she still has to be aware of Scout and make sure she takes his needs into account even while she’s tending to her own needs. That’s a HUGE amount of responsibility to put on a kid. 

It’s also critical that the child is invested in their own care. If Sarah doesn’t check and reward Scout, he’s going to become bored with the “finding the high/low” game. If she checks and doesn’t correct, or cheats on food often and ends up with constant soaring blood sugars, Scout is going to be stuck in high bg land so long it will become normal. So it’s also critical that the child has the best control possible. A DAD will improve your control only in that the dog will let you know when you’re going high/low and give you an opportunity to act. But a DAD can’t provide greater control if the child isn’t putting in the effort. It’s totally normal for teens to rebel and have crazy blood sugars; but this can be hard on a DAD and probably isn’t the best situation for continued success.

Having a DAD is a choice, like deciding to use an insulin pump instead of injections, or getting a CGM. As much as Sarah’s DAD has changed and improved her diabetes management and given us all an extra sense of security, we still made a choice to take on this level of responsibility and to deal with everything that comes with having a DAD. Sarah continues to make that choice every day, and during the day when he alerts, she makes choices which will determine whether he’ll continue to alert tomorrow and the next day. If she stops being fully engaged and invested in him, he may stop being fully engaged and invested with her. 

A good relationship with an alert dog requires a mutual partnership, build on mutual respect and love.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Happy Birthday to the most hardworking guy I know!

Birthdays are the perfect time to reflect on those important to our lives and are a chance to show how much we appreciate them. So today, I'd like to send a very special shout-out to someone who means so much to us. He's not really into celebrating things like birthdays, as he prefers to go about his day as usual. He's a bit of a workaholic you see, and even if we threw him the biggest birthday party ever, he would work right through it. Because his job, and the people he works for, are the most important things in his life.

And if he's really lucky, he'll get a chance to play... 

...with a squeaky ball

SCOUTY WOMPUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Scout is our two year old yellow Labrador. His training began when he was only a few weeks old, and in February he came home to live with us. Scout is my youngest daughter, Sarah's, diabetes alert service dog. His job is to let Sarah know anytime her blood sugar drops below 85 or climbs above 185. And he's a champion at his job. While he's basically on the clock 24/7 (which limited exceptions when they're apart for short periods), Scout gets a lot of play time, cuddle time, and attention. You can follow the adventures of Scout and Sarah here:

Scout watches over Sarah as she sleeps
Watches Sarah checking her blood sugar

Evening is fun time

Playtime makes everyone happy

Scout is better behaved than most boys in junior high

He carries the bringsel to tell Sarah to check her blood sugar

Watches over Sarah when she's sick

"Sarah, you're low!"

"Sarah, you're high!"

A great listener

Add caption

And if you just haven't had enough of Scout and Sarah by now, check out this video created by Canine Hope for Diabetics when Sarah brought Scout home. It has PUPPY pictures!!!


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Diabetes doesn't get a vote...

Sarah loves theatre. Loves it. To her core. It's what she's about FARRRRRRR more than needles, and insulin and ketones and carb counting. In fact, I'd say that theatre grounds her. Theatre makes her happy from the tips of her toes to the end of her long hair.

I honestly think theatre is one of the main reasons that diabetes has so little affect on her.

So I have to tell this story, because Sarah will never forget this night as long as she lives. Last night was one of those experiences that you can't plan for, can't create, you can only hope that once in a lifetime something like this will happen and you'll be ready.

Sarah is currently playing in a local junior version of Willie Wonka. She's one of the ensemble members, so she plays a "candy kid" and an "Oompa Loompa". There are probably about 40 of each, so it's a large ensemble and they sing and dance primarily between the main scenes with Charlie Bucket, Willie Wonka, and the bratty kids that accompany Charlie to the chocolate factory.

I was at work when I got a call from the producer of the show at about 2:30pm. The girl playing Veruca Salt is at the ER, might not make it to the show. Can Sarah prepare to play Veruca? - Of course I knew Sarah would do it, she can't tell Anne-Marie no. But I also know Sarah is a planner, and does like her time to get into a role and make it her own. Those who have experience with Sarah being "on the spot" know what I mean!

I called Sarah and explained the circumstance. Her first worry was for her cast member, of course, a delightful and talented young girl who Sarah has been in several shows with. But of course Sarah agreed to take her part for the show that night if needed. She started pouring over lines and music, and I rushed home from work early to get her to the theatre so she could learn her blocking and dancing.

By the time we got to the theater at about 4pm, Sarah had nearly all the lines committed to memory (yeah, pretty sure no one is EVER going to excuse you not being off book early in the show, ever again...). She started working on learning the blocking and dancing. She had her game face on like I've never seen, and was all business.

I was a little worried about her blood sugar. Extra anxiety and adrenaline can do strange things, and as Sarah is usually very calm and prepared, we haven't seen many anxiety/adrenaline issues. 1.5 hours prior to the show her bg was 131 with no IOB. I put her on a -50% temp basal (which means I turned her background insulin to half of what it normally is), and an hour later she was down to 75. I instructed the director to instruct her (I was selling snacks) to turn her basal off entirely for the show, and give her a little snack.

And that was it. Sarah went on with the show and if the producer hadn't told the audience about the cast change, no one would have ever known she hadn't been preparing for 10 weeks, but for 4 hours.

I've never been more proud of my little girl.

This video shows Sarah learning the dance about 2 hours before she would perform to a sold out house:

And this video shows Sarah performing it for the audience:

All I can say is "WOW"! I don't think many people could have done what she did. And I am beyond impressed with her ability to focus and learn this and perform it under these circumstances. 

And no, diabetes didn't get a vote.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


12:37 and I've stayed up watching Grey's Anatomy simply because I know if I sleep I might not hear the alarm.

She was a perfect 129 an hour ago, with no food insulin working, or so I thought. But now she's 82, and it's kind of funny because I'm probably around 82 and that's completely and perfectly healthy. I check the meter to see the amount of extra insulin she has; i.e. the amount that would have brought her from 129 to 82 for no apparent reason. 0.46 units.

Okay. Math time...

She gets .65 per hour this time of night to keep her blood sugar stable, through that lovely blue insulin pump that both keeps her alive and constantly reminds me that my baby girl's life is in my hands.

I'm her personal physician. I should get a degree, a white coat, a little black bag (do they still carry those?).

Is there any other disease that turns ordinary moms into doctors overnight? Is there any other disease where parents are handed a drug (technically insulin is a hormone, but whatever) that is so potent it can kill? Seriously, what's up with that?

Of course, what's our other choice.

And so I get hooked on one show after another so I have something to keep me from falling asleep so soundly I won't hear the incredibly annoying alarm I installed on my phone.

And I do math at 12:37am.

.45/.65 = .70.

And so I reduce her basal insulin to -.70 for one hour.

And then I blog because watching another episode of Grey's anatomy while I wait seems like gluttony. Am I rambling? I think I might be.

Eh, it's all good. I got to hold my teenagers hand at 12:37am. Okay, so I made it bleed, but still. How many parents of teens get to hold their child's hands while they sleep? So I guess I'm a lucky doctor, er mama.

Sleep is for weenies anyway...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

One day? I can't remember that far back...

I wanted to write a whole "one day" narrative to illustrate how Sarah's day with diabetes went, but I'm so tired after a pretty rough weekend of crazy bg's that I can only remember the highlights. So just think on this.

Sarah pierced her skin with a sharp metal object 15 times today, intentionally.

I'm pretty sure she doesn't actually enjoy that; I know I don't. She bolused for a Frappiccino at Starbucks which should have made her bloodsugar high, but instead she dropped to 78, then 61, then 59.

I laugh (somewhat maniacally) whenever someone asks me if we've got her diabetes under control, if we're managing it. Diabetes is like a rattlesnake, only the rattle is silent. And it's in your bedroom. It blends with the carpet so well you never see it but you know it's there, just waiting for you to step in the wrong spot or turn your back.

Tonight I completely expected to be dealing with highs, after a birthday party including the evil cake. But instead I'm venting my thoughts while I wait to check that the bg of 74 I caught 10 minutes ago is coming up. It's been over three years and diabetes still throws me a lot of curveballs.

And yes, they're fanged and venomous

Control is a myth, a daydream, a fleeting moment when all seems right.

It's 11:44pm, and I'm doing my best to stand in for a lazy pancreas. And my best is all I can do.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Basal... the other low treatment

I've had a few people ask me about this, so I thought I'd throw it in a blog. My disclaimer. I am most definitely not a doctor.

I'm a mom.
I'm a decision maker.
I'm a pseudo pancreas.

So this all started a little over three years ago. The second type 1 mom I ever met scared the living daylights out of me - and one of her horror stories (she told a few) was how her daughter (who I believe was around 8) had teeth so rotted they were falling out of her mouth. Why? Because she was so frequently treating low blood sugar with frosting and other sweet gooeyness. Okay, well honestly that whole teeth rotting out of the mouth didn't really sound appealing, so, as soon as Sarah started on the insulin pump, I started experimenting.

I found that SOMETIMES, when her low wasn't TOO low, when she had only a SMALL amount of IOB (insulin on board), I could resolve a low without using any carbs by lowering the basal rate to essentially match the remaining IOB.

Example: I check Sarah at midnight and her bg is 84, and she has .3 IOB. Her hourly basal rate at that time is .6 per hour. So instead of waking her to eat, I set a temp basal to -100 (turn it off) for an hour. I usually check 15-20 minutes later to make sure she isn't still dropping. If she's much lower, I will wake her to eat or drink something, but if she's holding steady or rising, I won't.

This has gotten SO much easier since we got Scout because he lets us know when she's trending down, usually starting in the 90's, which gives us LOTS of time to act.

So while I wouldn't necessarily suggest this, it's how we handle lows probably 60% of the time. It works for us when done safely and with extra monitoring. It does mean a little less sleep, as I probably have to stay up longer to confirm her bg is back into the happy zone - but so far (knock on wood) she has no cavities - and this makes me happy. Because diabetes is not supposed to be a teeth rotting disease, but really who treats lows at 2am and then makes their kid get up to brush???

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Novalog to Humalog. Oh joy...

Back in January I went online to order insulin for Sarah, and the website told me that we were no longer eligible to purchase Novalog, and would instead receive Humalog. Okay, good to know. A little warning from Kaiser might have been nice. So I asked people who have previously made the switch if I was likely to see any difference. The responses were basically:

"No, they're identical"
"There's a slight difference"
"There's a huge difference"
"Humalog is like water, doesn't do a thing"

I had a stash of Novalog in the fridge, so we started with the Humalog on 3/13/2013. And here's our experience, based on the first week of the month and the last week of the month, so a week before we started Humalog, and our full second week on Humalog.

Glucose in range
  • Pre-Humalog: 76% in range with 15 over and 9% under
  • Humalog: 68% in range with 38% over
Average Glucose
  • Pre-Humalog: 142 average
  • Humalog: 177 average (and keep in mind that this required a LOT of extra insulin)
Average Insulin
  • Pre-Humalog: 29.1
  • Humalog: 35.5
And in case you're a visual person...

Pre Humalog (on Novalog) - 3/1 to 3/8/2013

 Change to Humalog - 3/25 - 3/31/2013

So our conclusion? Humalog definitely isn't working as well. We have been CONSTANTLY increasing both basal rates and IC ratios, and I've reduced insulin sensitivity twice. I reduced duration from 3 hours to 2.5. We're still dealing with highs, no matter what we do. 

Clearly, there's really no difference...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Wanted: Smarter diabetes technology

You know what I want? I want a REALLY smart pump/meter/bolus calculator that learns. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

What if you could tell the device what you’re eating, and based on your pre-meal bg and post meal bg, it could better anticipate what you need next time!


Bg 120
Insert bowl of ice cream, 30g – regular bolus for carbs, say 3units (IC: 1:10)
1 hour later – bg 82
3 hours later – bg 140
4 hours later – bg 180 – correction given
5 hours later – bg 240 – Correct again

Next time you eat ice cream, what if you enter the food, and that it’s 30g. And your device remembers what happened last time and suggests something like:

Dose 4.5 units
Combo bolus 60/40
3 hours

And based on however this goes, the device makes adjustments for the next time. I think it’s going to be awhile before we have a cure, but why couldn’t someone invent a device that remembers types of foods, results, and provides advice based on past experience.

Just saying, but whoever is smart enough to make this happen would probably make a killing, and have the adoration of parents all over the world...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

...5:30 this morning...

My interpretation of Scout this morning when he woke us up around 5:30…

“Mama, something woke me up and now I’m hungry. Mama, mama, mama, mama, mama…"

The nose goes up and I can see the wheels start to spin faster…

“Emergency Mama! My girl is HIGH!


And now he’s practically bouncing on the bed.


…and then give me a party because I’m a good doggie…”

And she was 207, which is definitely not the norm for morning numbers for her. I’m starting to get annoyed with our switch to Humalog…

Sunday, March 17, 2013

3 Years...

How do you measure... measure a year...
In test-strips, in blood-checks, in carb counts, and lots of coffee. In research... in doctors... in insulin vials...

It has now been three full years since Sarah was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It's been a full, busy, and amazing three years. So let's just reflect on some of the highlights...

March 18, 2010 - she was diagnosed on a Thursday. She was about 68 pounds at diagnosis, and had lost 5-10 pounds over the previous months. I took this picture of her about three weeks before she was diagnosed.
February 25, 2010
March 22, 2010 - back to school. The school nurse (who handles about 10 schools) had to visit Sarah's school every day to give her a shot before lunch. She also returned to theater practice today, learning her lines and her songs for Runaway Stage Productions Cinderella Kids. Within two weeks Sarah, who had been seriously needlephobic her whole life, was giving herself shots everyday at school.

May, 2010 - Sarah performed wonderfully as Cinderella. Diabetes didn't slow her down at all. I packed lots of snacks, and checked her blood sugar during each intermission.
Sarah as Cinderella

The day after Cinderella ended, we flew to Ohio to a memorial for my grandfather. From Ohio we traveled by train to spend a few days in Washington D.C. This was a little more challenging because we were forced to eat in restaurants. I believe we experienced our first "high" blood sugar, somewhere in the high 300's, while we were in D.C. At the time it was a "freak out" moment for me, but since then I've learned to roll with the occasional 300's. As long as we catch them quickly and provide the right amount of insulin, they are short lived.

Sarah and her grammy, resting their achy feet in D.C.
July, 2010 - When we got home, Sarah went straight into practice for her next show, Guys and Dolls - in which she was cast as a "hotbox girl" (third from left). She had a blast dancing up a storm.

October, 2010 - Sarah sang "Candle on the Water" at the American Diabetes Association's Sacramento walk to STOP diabetes.

December, 2010 - Sarah sang 15 songs at a party put on by the U.C. Davis MIND Institute.

January, 2011 - Sarah played an Ancestor in Mulan.

March, 2011 - Sarah and I traveled to Washington D.C. to appeal to Congress to continue to fund diabetes research. We spent our last day there with Sarah's penpal, Megan (who also has type 1 diabetes). Both girls were ecstatically happy!

In June, 2012, Sarah sang nine songs for an enthusiastic crowd at her own Applause for Paws fundraiser, to help her with the costs of a diabetes alert dog.

In 2012 she fell down the rabbit hole as Alice in Alice in Wonderland.

She played a little sister (something she has some experience in) in Fiddler on the Roof.

She played one of MANY sisters in Pirates of Penzance.

In 2013, she got in touch with her inner guppy as Flounder in The Little Mermaid.

She kept the story flowing as a narrator in Aladdin.

And on February 24th, she brought home a new best friend and protector, her diabetes alert dog, Scout.

Sarah singing Deep River, the week she brought Scout home.

Over the last three years Sarah has shown me what true perseverance looks like. She goes through life with her eyes wide open and a beautiful smile on her face. She checks her blood sugar 10-15 times a day without complaint and counts carbohydrates like a champion. Diabetes is a constant companion, but Sarah keeps it shoved deep down in her bag and smacks it around as needed.

I imagine diabetes looks a lot like this around Sarah...

Sarah, you are my hero!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Early observations on life with a diabetes alert dog

Sarah’s diabetes alert service dog, Scout, moved in with us February 24th, 2013 - so just about three weeks ago. Scout is exactly what we’d hoped for in a service dog for Sarah. He’s very smart and does a great job alerting her to high and low blood sugars. But he’s also goofy and sweet and sometimes just downright ridiculous (thank goodness he saves the ridiculous moments for home!). We wanted a dog that Sarah could enjoy being with, and who would enjoy being with her. Scout fulfills all those requirements. He’s fun and cuddly and silly, and all business when he needs to be.

Sarah and I joked after a few days of taking Scout on all of our outings about making her a t-shirt that answers all the questions people constantly ask. It would say:

· No, he’s not in training – he’s working

· Please don’t pet him, he’s working

· He’s 20 months old

· Yes, he’s well trained, thank you for noticing

· No, I’m not training him for someone else – he’s my dog

· Yes, I have type 1 diabetes and my dog is no reflection on my “control”

· Yes, I DO have an insulin pump – but it doesn’t “control” my diabetes or monitor my blood sugar.

We’ve had previous experience with service dogs while volunteering with guide dogs for the blind, and also while training with Scout and other dogs, so we knew most of what to expect. I would venture to say that the following suggestions are probably true for most service dog teams:

We expected to be asked a lot of questions by the public, and of course that has been our experience. While we don’t always mind stopping to answer, and we love talking about how amazing Scout is, there are also times where we are just trying to finish our grocery shopping, take a walk, or otherwise finish our day. We have a schedule, especially with all of Sarah’s activities. Please don’t think it’s rude if we give you a short answer and excuse ourselves. We are not out and about for your entertainment; rather, Scout is with Sarah to keep her safe while she goes about her day. (And in reality I am usually happy to talk, unless I have ice cream dripping out of my grocery bag)

Please don’t ask to pet the dog. I know he’s really cute, and it is super tempting and you just want to cuddle/snuggle him. But he actually has a job to do, and it’s not fair to Sarah to have to constantly tell people “no”. And no, we aren’t being rude when we tell you that you can’t pet him. Petting affects his ability to focus on Sarah, and that is his job. Think about your workday. While you’re sitting in your car, at your computer, or otherwise working; how distracting would it be if some random person you didn’t know came up and just started putting their hands all over you? Would you be able to keep at your task without missing a beat, or would that possibly divert your attention away from your job? And on the heels of that request, drive by petting is definitely a huge no no. Don’t do it. Just don’t.

Don’t ask personal questions about Sarah’s medical condition. Trust me; she spends a lot of time answering those already. Don’t assume that because she has a dog she can’t control her diabetes – she’s just controlling it differently than that person you know. If you’re a close enough friend to know, you already do and of course we don’t mind explaining further. If you’re a random stranger, leave it alone already because it really isn’t your business.

Don’t tell us how lucky we are to take our dog into restaurants, the theater, etc. Instead, consider how lucky YOU are that you have no reason to need a service dog. I would love nothing more than for Sarah to never again have to feel as horrid as she does in the midst of a low blood sugar. I never want her to have ketones again, as that was just so beyond awful I can’t even describe. Scout’s job is to help keep these at bay by alerting us early and before Sarah feels the symptoms. Yes, we are so fortunate to have his help, but Sarah is not “lucky” to deal with diabetes 24/7 for the rest of her life. Not by a long shot.

Please don’t think that poor Scout is overworked. You may not love your job, but I can assure you, Scout loves his. His job is to hang out with his people all day, every day. And most of the time that’s what he does. Instead of being at home alone like most pet dogs, he gets to be with his peoples! What more could any dog ask for? But beyond that, when he does his job and finds a high or low blood sugar, he gets a party, just for him. Wouldn’t it be cool if you got 2-3 parties every single day, with cake and presents? Well that’s what Scout gets. He gets parties with the best present in the whole world; a squeaky ball and lots of extra love and affection. And if you saw him during a party, you’d know that he is absolutely over the moon happy.

All that said, we LOVE having Scout with us. He’s young, and we’re inexperienced, so we’re all learning together to help him do his job. But he’s amazing in so many ways. Scout is very smart, and even though he can’t talk, he is an excellent communicator. He knows just when Sarah needs a hug, and will just press his whole head against her for a bit. He’s still working on not being tempted by food and other things dropped on the ground, but it’s fun to watch him see that potato chip and remember that he’s supposed to ignore it. He turned to look at Sarah and his eyes say “I saw that and I knew you didn’t want me to eat it, so I didn’t. I’m a good boy. Can I have a cookie?”

And when he’s detected a low or high blood sugar, he makes sure we know it. And sometimes when she’s just right on the verge, he just stares at her for awhile, trying to decide, or waiting until the right moment. He also knows to keep his alerts much mellower when we’re not home, and at home he gets a big crazy party.

So far he’s been to:

Live theater at the Sacramento Convention Center

IMAX to see Oz, The Great and Powerful

Sarah’s theater classes

Sarah’s voice lessons

A bowling alley

Several restaurants


Mom’s work

The grocery store (many times)

The mall

Fairytale town (kids park)

Old Sacramento

Probably lots more places I’m blanking out on

And on each outing he’s made us proud. We love you Scout!