Most of you know that I am a Type 1 Diabetic, and have been for almost 30 years. As a plug for my book, I authored a book several years ago, called “Diabetes: Overcome Your Fears” which can be purchased on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers, or directly through me (if you’d like an autographed copy).
In this book, I discuss all that I have learned about diabetes over the years, my experiences with different equipment and alert dogs, having children, finding doctors, and so much more. With 2 biological children, I knew the statistics of them getting the disease, and could only hope and pray that our lifestyle would delay or prevent the onset. Our firstborn, JR, has been part of a trial study called TRIGR since he was born. At birth, he showed the genetic markers. While this was no guarantee he would develop the disease, it did mean he had a drastically increased chance. By the time he was 4, he was showing all the necessary antibodies for the condition, but was still free of diabetes. We can only hope our lifestyle contributed to the this fact. Last fall, however, his annual blood results showed a rise in his A1C results. Again, it was no guarantee, as nothing is certain in the development at this point, as the actual trigger for the condition is as yet unknown. However, these latest results meant we had to watch more closely for symptoms.
In early February, JR began having some trouble sleeping. It was somewhat random though, so I chalked it up to the winter cold preventing him from being as active, thus as tired, as normal. He became increasingly emotional and sensitive, but again, we were all driving each other a little nutty locked inside as we were due to the single digit temps outside. He began complaining of excessive thirst, but I was also drinking a lot due to the dry winter air we were experiencing, so again, I ignored the symptoms. Finally, 2 weeks ago, I came home from a long day on the road. It was long after JR’s bedtime, and he was crying because he couldn’t sleep again. He said he didn’t feel good. I knew they had waffles and syrup for dinner (a very high carbohydrate meal), so on a whim, I decided to test his blood sugar with my meter. Rather than the usual number reading, the meter gave me the message “Blood Glucose not readable. Over 600.” I felt the sinking feeling in my chest, knowing what this likely meant. I hoped, however, that he had residual syrup or sugar residue on his hands from dinner, so I sent him to the bathroom to wash his hands. He returned and I tested him again. I got the same reading. For once in my life, I used an almost-swear word. “CRAP!” I knew our lives and his life had just taken a major turn. I didn’t like it, he knew what his future held (at least as much as a 9 year old can), and we had to get that sugar down before he became very ill.
I woke S, told him what had happened, and immediately drove JR to the hospital, 30 minutes away. We walked into the ER, I explained the BG results to the intake nurse, and she immediately sent him to triage. He quickly became the center of attention for a ridiculous number of doctors, nurses, and medical interns. For the next 24 hours, he was admitted, put on insulin, given education and classes, met with one medical professional after another, and finally, we were discharged to go home.
So begins a new phase of life for our family. I am not just a diabetic, but I am also the parent of a diabetic. We are able to laugh at it sometimes–like in church, when I felt weak, turned to test, sat up and discovered JR doing the same. I was low, he wasn’t, so I “won.” Other times, I get sick of hearing “Mom, I’m low! What should I eat this time?” I’d rather go back to a month ago, when he was free of disease, and had a future free of shots and finger pokes. That is no longer the case. Thankfully, he is a mature, responsible kiddo, and often finds the blessings in life. He looks forward to having an alert dog like I used to. He already does all his own testing and injections. He is considering whether he wants a pump or to stay on shots. He is learning what to eat and how much, and how exercise affects his bg levels. I have no doubt his future is as bright as it ever was, only with the addition of this all-too-familiar thorn in his side to keep him humble and remind him of his mortality. Even now, he acts like a fairly typical child, except at bedtime, when his newfound insecurities show up. He is terrified to fall asleep many nights. He is so scared of a having a severe low. Although he has never seen me experience any such thing, he is a smart kid, and knows what a bad low can do. It scares him that his insulin might take him too low one night, and he might not wake up. He is doing better, but only with the reassurance that I will test him at night.
As a diabetic mom of a newly diagnosed child, I have wanted to cry for him many times, but the tears just won’t come. I know the frustrations life holds for him, the humiliations he will likely experience in time, the fears of finding a wife who will love him, or the decisions of whether he should have children and risk passing on the genetics. I hope he will never blame me for what he goes through, and that he will allow God to walk with him through those tough times. I hope I can teach him thankfulness in all things by my example, and that he will accept his disease as part of the result of mankind’s sinful nature and not something he himself did. I can only hope.
By the way, I will throw out a request. We have promised to help him train an alert dog. Alert dogs are amazing and wonderful aids for diabetics, and especially for children. They tend to give children more confidence to go places without their parents, and to simply fall asleep at night, because the dogs are trained to detect lows and highs an act accordingly. Will, my retired alert dog, has just gotten too old to return to service. The poor dog can hardly get off his bed sometimes, so there is no way he could keep up with an active little boy. Therefore, around late spring/early summer, we will be looking for a puppy to train. Our ideal dog would be a medium-breed, labrador, golden retriever, poodle, or cross-breed. I am not too picky about the breed itself, but I am very picky about the puppies (and parents’ if available) characteristics and will have to expose the puppy to several “tests” to see how it reacts. The breeds listed have simply had the greatest success rates as alert dogs for children. Other breeds have included Australian Shepherds, Welsh Corgis, Beagles, and many cross-breeds. In fact, my first was a rescue that I re-trained. We could take a puppy up to about 4 months of age, due to other considerations we have. I am really preferring something that will mature to less than 50 lbs, as the dog must sleep with JR, and because JR is rather small for his age. A smaller size would just be a better match for him. I say all this to ask, if you know of anyone who breeds for pups that might be good for a task of this nature, we will be looking. I would greatly appreciate any info you can offer that might help us find a good candidate to work with. If the puppy could possibly be donated, that would be an incredible blessing for our family.
In the mean time, perhaps the rest of you could offer up a little prayer on our behalf, as we go through these early “honeymoon” phases, try to get his insulin and blood sugars leveled out, learn to immerse this into our already-busy lifestyle, and soon begin the search for that perfect dog that will become JR’s personal, 4-legged guardian. We’d greatly appreciate it.