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How Life Changes after Diagnosis

struggleAfter the immediate devastation of a Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis for your child, the ebb and flow of the severity of how life changes after diagnosis is difficult to describe.

On one hand, the diagnosis brings a determination you didn’t know you had.  A determination to enjoy the fullness life has to offer, a thirst for the faith you may have haphazardly thrown on the back burner, a newfound purpose, and all of these are found at the bottom of the hole you are forced to attempt to crawl out of.

As we approach our three-year mark of Carter’s Type 1 Diagnosis this November, I look back and see that I have been through the many stages of grief many, many times.  These days, it’s not really clear what brings the grief stages again.  Maybe it’s the after summer blues, maybe it’s watching your son explain what his insulin pump is to those who stare at the beach or the pool, maybe it’s the built up exhaustion, who knows, but I do know that some season’s suck more than others.

Watching your child grow up, carrying this burden is bittersweet.  I remember standing in the hospital during diagnosis week, and wishing for the day when Carter was able to understand, when he would then be able to  take an active role in his care.  That day has arrived, and it’s more heartbreaking than I anticipated.

Watching your child realize they are different from their peers is hard.  Birthday parties, getting together with their friends, going to the beach, going to the pool, having to constantly interrupt his fun to do a blood check, or correct puts a damper on his fun.

I don’t think the change is a one time event, I believe after a diagnosis of that magnitude, we are ever-changing, always evolving and taking on what comes next.  We are always growing, individually and as a family as it pertains to Carter’s care and management, most often within each moment.  No one day is ever the same, and the worries that each day bring are always different, and changing.

The hardest days for me, are the ones where I can sense Carter is tired of it all.  On those days, my heart breaks just a fraction more.  I would give anything to take this burden from my son.  It affects our whole family, as my daughters are left with a shell of a mother most days.  Lately, exhaustion takes over and I walk through the day an ill tempered zombie.  Always tired, always worrying, always only half present in what is going on as I watch Carter like a hawk.

Will it get better?  Until there is a cure, I don’t think so.  We have decent days, and have fallen into a routine that works for us, but it isn’t void of immense effort and complications.  The frustration and disappointment are too much to bear some days, but we preserver and move on.

My son and daughters, exemplify the forbearance of those who know where this path leads.  We’ve traversed this road more than once, and we know that we come out of these trials stronger.  All in all, I see how their brothers health worries them, especially Ashleigh.

We fall down.  We pick ourselves back up.  We cry, we laugh, we are like any family, we just cling a little closer, because we are faced with the threat of possible loss every minute of everyday.

Advocating for your Type 1 Diabetic Child

IMG_1250The day my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I became his biggest supporter and his advocate. I was determined to make this seem “normal”, familiar, less invasive than it inevitably was.  Yet advocating for your Type 1 Diabetic child is easier said than done.

Carter was diagnosed when he was 17-months-old, which was bittersweet. On one hand, he was so young that essentially this way of life would be all he knew, yet the terror that invaded me was numbing. He was so small, so fragile, and I didn’t know how to get through this catastrophic event, especially since I knew nothing about Type 1 Diabetes prior to his diagnosis.

I have found, that is the norm, most know not much about the autoimmune disease that affects more and more people each day. Type 1 Diabetes has been on the rise and the reasons as to why, remain a mystery. My personal journey, compelled me to educate when I could, mostly in an effort for my son to grow up in a world that knows more than before about what he carries so bravely each and every day.

Everyday is a new opportunity to educate those around us, those who know us, and especially those who are strangers. I have checked Carter’s blood in aisles in the grocery store, in line at Disneyland, in restaurants, basically anywhere and everywhere it is necessary. I also dose him anywhere and everywhere.

We recently were on vacation, and while waiting for our food, my children had made friends with a boy who was running around the grassy hills, he too was waiting for his meal. The boy was around 5-years-old, sandwiched nicely between Ashleigh’s six-and-a-half-years, and Carter’s four. The kids ran around and played for a good 10 minutes before both tables food arrived.

The boy visited our table often throughout our meal, and happened to be standing right next to Carter when I pulled out the shot of insulin and injected him. The little boy wretched back in panic as I dosed Carter and screamed, “What are you doing!?” I calmly explained that my son was a Type 1 Diabetic, that his body doesn’t make insulin anymore and he needs to inject it to eat and to stay alive. Though still affected, the boy seemed to understand.

Every action is education, my husband pointed out how I scared that little boy and my response was that I wouldn’t hide and shame our son in dealing with his condition. At the end of the day, those around us need to adjust. It can be done, it has to be done. I will never adhere to society and how uncomfortable those around may be, when my son’s life is on the line. THIS is our normal, this is what my son does to live. I am proud of his daily sacrifices to live and each poke, whether it is MDI (Multiple Daily Injections) or his Inset site changes for his pump, is a deceleration of his survival.

I had a brief conversation with the boy’s mother, and she was eager to quickly learn what Type 1 Diabetes meant and we discussed the signs. Small victories, as I advocate for my son. Spreading awareness is the most important tool we have to assist those in understanding this disease. Allowing those to see what our hero’s endure, is the first step in tolerance, a bigger step toward compassion, and an overall guide in breaking the perception that surrounds Type 1 Diabetes.

The Impact of Type 1 Diabetes

Carter and Daddy beach June 2015It had been two days since I’d showered, standing in the bathroom in the same clothes I was in two days earlier when we took my son to the Emergency Room when he was then diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I looked at my tired face trying to convince myself everything was OK.

It’s manageable, I told myself, nothing will change, I told myself….I was wrong, everything changed.  Everything continues to change.  Relationships,  outings, our daily routine, car rides, meals, baths, fun days, days filled with lethargy, too much activity, not enough activity, NOTHING is ever the same.

Having a child with Type 1 Diabetes is a lot like being the only married couple in your group of friends who has kids.  There is no common ground anymore,  ground where you can relate with what your other friends are going through.  Human nature propels you, when in this situation, to find new friends who have kids and you somewhat leave your old, single friends behind as you grow.

The same is true with a Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis, you are living a different life, in a different world, where relating with your daily reality as a caregiver to a Type 1 Diabetic child is difficult to understand.  People think you’re overreacting, or a helicopter parent as you monitor your child’s every move, every morsel they consume, in order to calculate the insulin dose they need to cover what they have ingested.  Too much insulin, they die, too little they die, it’s all too much to explain to someone who doesn’t know what it is like to live without a working pancreas.

Extended family, old friends, new friends,  there is so much to explain, all of the time,  so much to be judged on by the unknowing  eye.  In an effort to remain protected,  you disconnect.   Everything is too exhausting, and it’s too much to explain to those who have never gone through this crisis.

It’s refreshing when you surround yourself with those who have been through the dark tunnel you have.  Those who know what it feels like to always have the hair standing up on the back of your neck, those who reassure you that you’re not being overprotective, or ridiculous, or irrational, those who know what it is like to walk in to check your child’s blood sugar and breathe a sigh of relief when you pick up their hand and it’s warm.

The reality is that having a child with Type 1 Diabetes, death is always shadowing you.  Miraculously the disease is manageable, yet the effort poured into managing your child’s health is often overlooked.  Type 1 Diabetes, for all intents and purposes is a silent disease.  One that isn’t visible, and  one that shrouds the care that is necessary in mystery, but for those who live it.

As I sat there in that hospital bathroom, looking at my tired face, watching the lines being etched, and the grey hairs forming, desperately trying to convince myself this was all doable, manageable, I was unaware that in those moments I was shedding who I used to be.  That week in the hospital we were given the armor we needed to navigate through this life with a diabetic child, but we weren’t trained on how to navigate the existing relationships who had no way of understanding what we needed.  We didn’t even understand what we needed to survive.

Finding your new path while working feverishly to maintain some semblance of normalcy, leaves hurt feelings in the wake of your diagnosis.  It takes some time to be OK with those who judge or wallow in the hurt of being left behind.  After all, there is a bigger purpose here, a bigger calling.  Let those who don’t understand find their path, your time is filled, navigating the path toward those who do understand and who stand at the end of the tunnel with open arms to embrace you.

 

Switching to an Insulin Pump

www.medtronicdiabetes.com
www.medtronicdiabetes.com

Researching insulin pumps is bittersweet.  It’s exciting knowing that there will be more freedom for your child, yet at the same time, it’s a daunting task.  Searching for the best “device” to keep your child alive, was never something I thought I would have to do.

I look at the features of these insulin pumps and am impressed with how I will be able to remotely dose Carter from another room, as opposed to having to chase him and nail him down to inject the insulin up to eight times a day.  Then of course, the stories from other pump users about the tightening of numbers, better A1c numbers, etc.  The pro’s seem to negate the cons.

Yet the closer I get, my nerves make me wonder if I am strong enough to go through with it all.  Learning a new system, one which may take up to a month to fully understand and tweak to get Carter’s ratios right, it all seems counter-intuitive.

I am comfortable with Multi Daily Injections, but deep down I know Carter isn’t.     Carter is who this is ultimately about, although I know the one larger poke every 2-3 days will take some getting used to, Carter will enjoy being more “normal” while walking through the most not normal circumstances, having to manage his Type 1 Diabetes.

Carter’s health and well-being are the most important thing to me, no matter what I have to do to accomplish that.  Yet, I feel like I am yet again grieving this diagnosis, though we are almost 2-years into it.  Up until now, Carter’s Type 1 Diabetes was virtually an invisible disease.  One that was only noticed when I would check his blood or dose him.  Now, wearing a pump, it will be an advertisement of his condition.

All this makes me realize how fragile I still am.  When we started giving Carter shots, we didn’t have a choice.  It was a necessity in order to keep him alive and have him survive.  Now I have a choice, it’s odd making life saving choices for your preschooler; and honestly given the choice, I would choose not to have to deal with Type 1 Diabetes.

Ultimately,  all I’m trying to do is raise a healthy and happy little boy who doesn’t feel held back.  Right now I believe the pump will give us that.  It’s hard enough having Type 1 Diabetes to manage, I’m striving to give my son just a little bit more freedom, and hopefully through this new learning curve and process it will help me feel less broken.

 

Heartbreak Heard Around the World

Know the symptomsHeartbreak, disbelief, anguish.  These are the feelings I had this weekend when I heard news of Kycie Terry’s passing.    For six months I have followed the story of the beautiful, bright-eyed 5-year-old who won our hearts with her story of courage, and strength on the day she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in January 2015.

Followed the next day with the passing of another angel, David Brown II at the age of 4.  Another story of Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) that could have been avoided had they been checked at the hospital with a glucometer.  David’s blood sugar was 770, which tragically ended his life when his brain swelled, and his kidney’s eventually failed due to the time with such high blood sugar.

These two tragedies arrive on the heels  of a week riddled with frustration within the diabetic community.  The CrossFit slander campaign, which incorrectly linked sugar to all diabetes diagnosis, was an exhausting hole to dig Type 1 Diabetes out of.  It’s incorrect information, such as CrossFit was spreading, that promotes the tragedy that is DKA.

People don’t automatically think their child could be suffering from the early onset of Type 1 Diabetes, because they don’t know the signs, they equate the disease to sugar intake and they couldn’t be more wrong.

Extreme thirst, immense urination (more than usual), significant drop in weight, sleepy all the time, these are a few of the symptoms that would be a reason to go to the ER and have your child’s blood sugar checked.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis is becoming an epidemic, my family is so fortunate to have made it through a DKA diagnosis.  Carter’s blood sugar was 880, higher than David’s and Carter was so much smaller.  My heart aches for these two families who lost their children this past weekend.  I can’t imagine the grief and anguish they feel, seeing how close we were to losing Carter, or having life altering complications, make me see how miraculous it is that Carter has had zero complications from his stint in DKA.

There is no excuse for doctors to not have the ability to check blood sugars with a simple prick to the finger.  One drop of blood makes all the difference, one drop of blood could save lives.  Misinformation needs to be corrected, and not just by the diabetic community.  It’s the responsibility of doctors to get behind this cause, we need to guard our children better.

The heartbreak heard around the world this weekend, was unnecessary, and due to misdiagnosis.  Now is the time to make changes, advocate for the children who aren’t able to advocate for themselves, it’s not just their health that is at stake, it’s their lives.

To the families of Kycie Terry and David Brown II, my most sincerest heartfelt condolences for the loss of your two precious babies.  Kycie and David will not be forgotten, their lives have meaning and they will help fuel the necessary changes that need to be made in order to protect future children from this horrible disease.

WE NEED A CURE.

 

Type 1 Diabetes and PTSD

Carter HospitalWhen your child is diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, you are left with scars. Scars you don’t even realize are there, until the scars get ripped open again.

Sick days have come and gone throughout the course of this past year and a half of managing my son’s Type 1 Diabetes, all without incident.  This week, everything changed.  The dreaded return to the hospital inched closer and closer.

Carter started a fever on Wednesday afternoon, an afternoon where we happened to be on our second day of a mini vacation and 300 miles away from home.   I monitored his symptoms and fever, and Thursday morning his ketone strip showed he had large ketones.  Carter hasn’t had ketones since his diagnosis in November 2013.

At first I panicked, then I called Carter’s Endocrinologist.  We walked through the care I needed to provide, and we headed home.  By Thursday night I had reduced his ketones from large to moderate.  By Friday morning his ketones were back up to large.  It was then that I decided to take him to the Children’s Hospital.

Since this was the hospital he was diagnosed at, walking in after almost two years was rough.  I felt a twinge if PTSD as we entered the hospital.  Being in the ER was new, but when we were admitted, walking onto the peds floor, the smell of it took me back to November 2013, Carter’s diagnosis.  I was overwhelmed with heartache.

Being a parent, especially one to a child with a disability, carries an extra heavy weight with it.  The decisions we have to make aren’t always the easiest ones, often times they involve admitting our child to the hospital where we know there will be pain and suffering in order to catch up to survival.

Watching my now 3-year-old struggle with fear while we sat waiting for the IV to be put in was horrible.  I wanted nothing more than to scoop him up and walk out of the hospital and go home.  I knew that wasn’t an option.  I knew if my son had any chance of getting over this virus without entering into Diabetic Ketoacidosis remaining and getting an IV was the only solution.

Being in the hospital with the year and a half’s worth of knowledge we reluctantly have learned made this stay extra frustrating and difficult.  Knowing the specific things that worked for Carter within his care and having pushback from the nurses who weren’t familiar with managing Type 1 Diabetes in such a young child was unbelievably frustrating.  Yet it reminded me that no matter the situation, even with medical staff, I am always my son’s best advocate.

Reliving what we went through at diagnosis, thankfully on a smaller scale, brought back so many old feelings, and unwrapped scares I thought I had successfully allowed to heal.  I started to get angry, but decided to pour that anger and sadness into fighting harder for a cure.

Although our latest overnight stay at the hospital was difficult emotionally and physically draining, it was necessary for Carter to get well.  It also allowed us as a family, included Carter to grow when it comes to managing Type 1 Diabetes in him.  We are now all acutely aware of new ways to assist in reducing a hospital stay, and were reminded how quickly things can change when it comes to life with Type 1 Diabetes.

Blood Sugar Rollercoaster

www.napsnet.com-
www.napsnet.com-

 

 

 

 

 

 

The blood sugar rollercoaster that Diabetes brings can be exhausting.  Up, down, up, down, and then eventually *crash!*  I do my best to try to avoid the crash area as much as I can.  I struggle with burnout like the next care taker, and truthfully I don’t do much to make sure I have enough me time.  Me time lately, has consisted of extra sleep, when my husband comes home I go to take a nap.

With the extra night checks we have been tasked with due to the major fluctuations in Carter’s numbers, it feels like I hardly get any sleep.  But even when I take naps, it seems as though the deficit I am in is too great to try to conquer.

Type 1 Diabetes can take a turn for the worst or the best, in the blink of an eye, and trying to stay one step ahead is absolutely exhausting.  But given the alternative that not monitoring blood sugars regularly gives, death, I am extremely vigilant, even when it makes me feel like a zombie.

I worry about how the fluctuations make Carter feel, I worry I am not doing enough, but what more can I do?  I check his blood 8-10 times a day, adjust insulin where needed and still the immense fluctuations.  Type 1 Diabetes is really a jerk of a disease, so indecisive, and heaven forbid it get a little hotter or cooler, then all bets of consistency are completely off!

Being able to accept the fluctuations if half the battle, getting to the point where you don’t take the fluctuations personally, as if it were a direct reflection of your care, is the hardest part.

I have finally moved past those feelings, and realize that I could be doing everything “right,” yet the numbers will show something completely different.  Being overtly diligent with meals, and insulin to carb ratios, and activity can only get you so far when it comes to blood glucose readings.  The most freeing thing I have learned to do is forgive myself.

I forgive myself for being pissed off, I forgive myself for being frustrated, and for under dosing because of exhaustion.  The ability to properly calculate insulin based on the correction scale, in conjunction with the reading I have received at 2:00AM sometimes takes me a little while to calculate.  All the while with a complaining toddler who is getting more awake with each second.

Mothers of Type 1 Diabetic toddlers, are forever stuck in the front lines dilemma, we have the pressure and fear associated with a gun pressed to our temple, yet have to think calm and cool in order to fix the situation.

I don’t think enough emphasis is placed on the parent of a Type 1 child, especially one who isn’t yet fully speaking.  The meeting of needs is hard enough when it doesn’t include an algebraic equation, and most times, the variable found within the algebra equation handed to you in the middle of the night includes tears and maybe some cursing out of frustration.

All in all, the end result is always the same, we make it through, we continue to rise above and find the solutions, then when we lay back down in bed we don’t even want to close our eyes again, for we know right when we start to get into REM we will be called upon again.

We conquer this part of out day like exhausted and reluctant champions, and do it over and over again in an effort to give our kids a normal life.  Fluctuations or not, I am determined to make sure Carter’s days are filled with fun and excitement, not just blood checks and shots; and I work very hard not to show the fluctuations in my energy level.