Category Archives: pancreas

The Pressure of Managing a Type 1 Diabetic

The one thing people never talk about, is the pressure associated with managing a Type 1 Diabetic child. Yes this disease is manageable, yes, there are many devices that allow for better management of a relentless disease, but the underlying responsibility and pressure are forgotten in the fold.

As the parent to a Type 1 Diabetic child, my son’s existence relies on my ability to care for him. Working feverishly to maintain stable blood sugars can feel like a futile effort most days. Not letting a bad day with Diabetes define you, can be even harder.

There have been many nights that I sit and reflect on the day and feel the guilt of things I should have done differently. After all, we have been working at managing this beast called Type 1 Diabetes for over three years now, I should be a pro by now. What I don’t account for is human error, it is so difficult to function at one hundred percent, when working on only a few hours of interrupted sleep.

Type 1 Diabetes robs you of so much, it robs you of joy some days, robs you of sleep, robs you of peace, and piles immense pressure onto an already weakened spirit. Some days it feels like it is crushing you. Yet through the ashes, beneath all this disease robs, it pushes you to view life through a different lens.

Every day, every moment is a gift. We fight every moment of everyday for survival, and for normalcy. Yet, the pressure is still there. When a severe low, or massive high rear their ugly heads, the pressure to stabilize my son can be suffocating.

When I feel completely under attack from the pressure that managing Type 1 ensues, I find that changing the scenery can help. Once I get Carter stabilized I will take the kids out of the house, take them to the park. Getting out in the fresh air, and changing our view has a forgiving effect that helps me feel human again. It can be easy, sitting in the house, feverishly monitoring blood sugars, carb intakes, insulin on board, to forget there is more than survival, there is life to live.

Some days, I have to be forced. Forced to look at the bright side, forced to get out of the house, forced to find the silver lining. These are the days when the pressure can seem like it is too much, where I would pay for a break, but it’s on these days, when once we have found the joy, it is so much more meaningful, because we have had to fight for it.

Be Good to Yourself

Be Good To YourselfIt is so hard, to remember to be good to yourself. It’s hard when you’re a parent, when you’re a spouse, and even harder when you are the parent of a Type 1 Diabetic.

Every move you make, every dose of insulin you give, every blood check, feels like the weight of the world is on you. We want perfection, with a continually imperfect scenario. We want our children to live normal lives, when their very lives are dependent on a regime that is exhausting and all-consuming, at best.

We are harder on ourselves, because as the adult, we should know better, do better, be better. But at the end of the day, the reality is, we are human beings, who through our mistakes, our fumbles, our grief, our heartache, our suffering, and our shortcomings, learn and get better.

Carter sunbathingI love this picture of Carter, it shows him loving life, enjoying the sunlight beating into his skin as he lounges in the water. But for the pump site attached to his tummy, one would never know he was a Type 1 Diabetic. Living with Type 1 Diabetes, proves to my son that he is anything but ordinary, he is extraordinary.

Me and Carter fight for every breath he takes, and through that battle, we have proven more to ourselves. We have proven how much fight we have in us, how brave we are, how tough we are, how we rise to the occasion, how no matter what is thrown at us, we find the solution. Despite everything, we grow.

There is a comfort in our bond, in seeing the trust my son has in me to help him survive, and how much I am able to prove of my love for him through each and every scenario. My son has encountered situations that most adults have never had to deal with. It has given him a confidence and maturity that many strive for but never obtain.

So though I make mistakes, I will be good to myself, because I know I am doing my best. I fight everyday for my son’s health, for his life and I am proud of what my family has grown into, through all of this.

Barely Hangin On

Carter 4. 2016I’m not quite sure what landed me at this edge, feeling like I am barely hanging on. In a way, it feels familiar, like I have camped out here before, frequently.

Maybe the gateway to this campsite is illness. Any sickness that Carter contracts brings an anxiety that is difficult to describe. Most minute illnesses we get through without any issue, then there are those that land my son in the emergency room. This past Thursday was one of those times.

We had been battling the stomach flu, it began with Natasha, my 11-month-old, worked its way to Ashleigh, my six-year-old, and finally latched onto my three-year-old Type 1 Diabetic son. Both my daughters threw up twice, replenished fluids and rested and recovered within a full 24 hours.

Carter, began throwing up at 8:00 am and by 6:00 pm he had thrown up 8 times. He couldn’t keep anything down. It was at that point that I called the endocrinologist. Although his blood sugars were good, I could see the beginnings of something brewing. Dehydration, Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), when Carter’s eyes started to look sunken in, I knew it was time to take him in.

Lately, I feel as though I am starving for mercy.  It has felt like one thing after the other as I struggle to hang on to the edge of the cliff I fell off of three long years ago.  Watching my son battle Type 1 Diabetes has been humbling, heartbreaking, and unequivocally stressful all at the same time.

I am tired of the guess-work that it requires to keep my son alive.  I hate that I can look in his eyes and see that he’s heading toward a low, or a high blood sugar, yet at the same time I am grateful.  Grateful that through immense trial and error I now know how to see it in his demeanor before it strikes.

I’m sad that the hospital is a close comfort, because I know that they have everything at their disposal to save my child.  I hate watching my son be brave for all the pokes, all the site changes, all the IV’s, and all the scar tissue which is evidence of his condition.

Being on the brink of a breakdown seems to be where I have set up camp.  I don’t know how long I will stay, or if my camp will ever move on to acceptance.   I do what I can to find a way to survive where I am, never having all the answers, always having to fight, not just for my son’s life, but for understanding from the non-diabetic community.

Those who don’t live this life, 24/7 don’t understand the difficulty.  In a way, I feel it is my duty to report what we go through.  Maybe to raise awareness, but mostly to raise empathy.  I would hate to watch my son navigate through an environment where no one knew what Type 1 Diabetes entailed, and had no idea how hard it was to live in a world that requires constant vigilance and monitoring.

Carter was released 5 hours after being admitted to the Emergency Room, luckily that is all he needed this time.  I caught him in dehydration, and the beginning of DKA.  I’m glad that I caught it, I’m happy that I stopped DKA in its tracks, but angry at the same time that my son is continually haunted by the possibility of an illness where he is worse off than his sisters because of a misunderstood autoimmune disease that doesn’t play fair.

I would be remiss, if I didn’t document these trails, if I didn’t talk candidly about the world that the majority of Type 1 Diabetics live in, just on the brink, the brink of  life, which consequently also is the brink of insanity.

I believe that is the cliff I have been hanging on for the past 2.5 years, the brink of insanity.  Knowing at any moment my son could land in the ER, knowing that my tireless efforts throughout the day, are futile, knowing that even though I live in “groundhog day” the outcome of each day managing Type 1 in my son, always delivers a different outcome.

It’s unfair, it’s inconsistent, but it’s our reality.  It’s our hell, it’s our purgatory, until there is a cure.

Diabetes Makes Me Different

My siteCarter: Mom, I want to take my site off.

Me: Why Buddy?

Carter: Because I don’t want people to laugh at me

Me: Who would laugh at you?

Carter: People

Me: Why do you think they would laugh at your pump?

Carter: Because it makes me different.

Me: You earned that pump, it’s what keeps you healthy. If anyone laughs, or tries to make you feel “different”, you tell them it’s your bravery patch that you wear. Tell them that they wouldn’t think getting poked with a needle for every meal would be that funny if they had to do it. Buddy, your pump does make you different, it shows how brave you are, how conscious of your health you are, and have to be, and it’s the best tool we have to keep you healthy.

Carter: OK mom.

Me: I love you buddy…..

Carter: I love you Mom.

I cried, I went downstairs and cried for about 15 minutes.

The best part of this conversation, was that my six-year-old heard it and came in to Carter’s room to reassure him of his bravery. She also told him that she would always protect him and wouldn’t let anyone laugh at him. I have watched Ashleigh protect her brother, when at birthday parties, or even at the park, she has fiercely defended her brother, and I know I can count on her to protect her brother’s spirit and feelings.

I hate that my son feels different, but am so happy that I gave birth to a fierce warrior who will assist me in protecting my brave son, and will make sure that he is not misunderstood.

This is exactly why I let Carter put a site on my arm, I don’t ever want him to feel alone.

The Vulnerability in Type 1 Diabetes

I hopeVulnerability, it’s not something we as human beings embrace. Vulnerability has been linked to and associated with weakness, obligation, onus, all descriptive of feelings that are capable of haunting someone. The vulnerability in Type 1 Diabetes is hard to escape. I have been vulnerable since my son’s diagnosis in November of 2013. It feels like feeling vulnerable is the norm, and feeling secure is a fleeting feeling that I experience once in a while.

Being so fragile, constantly, is exhausting. I work continually to clamber back toward who I used to be, overtly confident, non-affected, gliding through life seeming to have it all together. Now if I can make it to my kids bed time without a major break down, I have conquered the day.

Living life under a microscope, essentially in a pressure cooker, the majority of the time, I feel like I am about to burst from all the pressure. Most days, I feel like I am barely hanging on.  This has been exacerbated this week, as Carter started the pump on Tuesday.

We had finally, in some ways, fell into a routine.  We knew how Carter reacted to dosages of insulin, how much he needed at any given time, and would just inject him to correct a high, or to dose him to cover what he was about to ingest.  His a1C was good in October 2015, 8.0.  I was thrilled, but at the end of the day, it all could be better.

I decided I would get Carter the pump, mostly because it would mean less pokes.  I envisioned the ease of dosing him remotely, letting him graze throughout the day to his heart’s content, and allowing him that milk he pleads for at 2:00 AM at his night check.  After all, it would just require a quick press on the remote, and he would be dosed!

I didn’t account for the complete change that starting the pump introduces.  I came home from our appointment Tuesday, the appointment where I had to put in my first infusion set.   I succeeded, but felt suffocated by the feelings of vulnerability that took over, and not only have they not left, they have grown in the 4 days since we began this new journey.

At the end of the day, it feels like Carter was diagnosed all over again.  I wasn’t prepared for the emotional toll starting the pump would take on me.  Waking every 2 hours through the night to check his blood is exhausting.  I feel so tired and so defeated, but I cling to the understanding that once I master this learning curve everyone is going to be happier.

Dealing with failed sites, an infected site, and every other issue known to happen when on the pump within the first week has been overwhelming.  But I watch the joy on my son’s face when he looks down at the pump as it vibrates, injecting insulin.  He beams, and lets me know he’s getting his insulin.

Being able to have the freedom to not get so many pokes, I watched Carter start to eat more.  The unspoken toll that this all takes on the diabetic is heartbreaking.  It is so hard to comprehend what they go through, and not get so caught up in the emotional toll it takes on the caregiver.  At the end of the day, feeling vulnerable doesn’t hold a candle to the peace my son feels being on the pump.

If I have to learn a difficult new task every hour of every day to ensure that my son feels as normal and happy as can be, I will do it in a heart beat.  Watching his happiness grow, along with his appetite, makes this transition less anxiety ridden, and more exciting for the possibilities Carter now has to live life to the fullest, despite having Type 1 Diabetes.

 

*My son is using the Animas Ping Pump.  For more information, visit Animas.com

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.