Tag Archives: test strips

Numbers

My world has become consumed with numbers. A1c, 6.8, glucose rage 100 – 140, danger zone 70 or below, conversely 180 or above. Alarm sets for 12:00 AM, 3:00 AM, 6:00 AM, blood glucose checks every two to three hours, more if needed. Copay amounts, numbers of vials of insulin, amount of units to be dosed to cover carbs to be consumed, but through all these numbers, the most important number, five…..the age of my son who works through these numbers every hour of everyday with me.

Two nights ago, exhausted, my alarm went off at 3:00 AM, i snoozed it and 5 minutes later it went off again. I had checked Carter at midnight, and his blood sugar was 180. He didn’t have any insulin on board, other than his basal insulin and my body tried to convince me to just go back to sleep, that he was fine. My heart and brain knew better, I staggered out of bed and checked him……..45. The race began to save his life, as happens often with this disease.

My flight down the stairs began. I grabbed a juice box, a cup of milk, and some marshmallows, and his glucagon, running back upstairs prepared for anything. Carter started not being responsive to the juice box, I climbed into his bed, and sat him up, shaking, he started to open his eyes. I opened his mouth and squeezed the juice in. He started to respond. A new number became prevalent, 20, the number of minutes I would sit with him to make sure this low is properly corrected.

Carter fell back to sleep, in my arms, and I then sat counting his breaths. It’s never the same scenario, never the same number, never the same correction that works. It always feels like a gamble, shooting in the dark to see what will work this time. I then have this 20 minutes of sitting in the dark of my son’s room to think about the number of times I have called and beg and pleaded with insurance to approve the devices we need in order to keep my son alive, only to be denied.

My mind shifts to the number three, the exact number of weeks until Carter starts school, and will be in the care of teachers who don’t know what his lows look like, what his high blood sugars look like. Ten, the number of minutes it takes me to convince myself that pushing past my fears is the only way to give Carter a normal life in spite of this disease.

It’s all numbers, all the time. Luckily, this time everything worked out OK, after 20 minutes, I re-checked Carter and his blood sugar was 110. I spent the following 10 minutes stopping myself from think of the “what if” scenarios. Left back at one, another hour of sleep lost, but grateful that Carter was safe.

Managing Type 1 Diabetes is all about numbers, and calculations, and math. One wrong calculation can be unbelievably detrimental, and shift the whole day or night. We have become really good with numbers in this house, we have had to. Yet the biggest number that I hope to see grow, is the awareness of those in my life and beyond who will gain a better understanding of what carter goes through in order to survive.

Growing with Type 1 Diabetes

Managing Type 1 Diabetes, can be a very lonely existence. Especially when you are managing it for your child. Without being engrossed in the care that is required, it is easy to watch the care being given with judgmental eyes.

People ask me all the time when Carter will grow out of Type 1 Diabetes. When I tell them he won’t they ask me when it will all get easier. The answer to this question, again is it won’t.

It’s difficult to wrap one’s head around the effort that is poured into managing a Type 1 Diabetic, it’s impossible to bring to light all of the variables in one conversation.The majority of the time, days are OK, and manageable. But there are those days where everything changes on a dime and care becomes almost impossible. An uphill battle that feels like you are climbing up the side of a glacier, barefoot.

We are rapidly approaching the time when Carter starts kindergarten. I will have to relinquish control of his care to the team at his school and I am extremely nervous. I am face to face with a mountain that I am not ready to climb. Allowing someone to care for my son, and having the trust in them to make the right decisions, in a moments notice is daunting.

Type 1 Diabetes is not a play by the book disease. It is an illness that changes minute by minute, based on many factors: activity, insulin on-board, excitement, fear, basal rates, growth, being nervous, food, or lack thereof, and the list goes on and on.

This is a milestone that we need to get through, a hurdle that must be traversed, but my heart isn’t ready. Beyond the exhaustion associated with Carter’s care which spans twenty-four hours a day, every day, the preparation for Carter’s entrance to school has me stressed.

I have faith that my son will be adequately cared for, with proper training, I will relinquish control and allow my son to take more accountability for his health.  It is amazing, as I am reminded yet again, how Type 1 Diabetes changes every aspect of life.  One hurdle at a time, that is what is required when managing Type 1 Diabetes.

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.

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.

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.

 

The Triggers of Trauma

Diagnosis Socks - November 2013
Diagnosis Socks – November 2013

While doing laundry yesterday I came across these socks that were given to Carter when he was in the Intensive Care Unit, it’s amazing to me how the triggers of trauma have begun to engulf me. I also think about the process of grieving and acceptance, we are so complex as human beings, our emotional realizations are so deeply embedded and affect so much of our lives. I have decided to embrace all the feelings I have, as I want to be able to work through them and move past them instead of stuff them down and not deal with them.  I think about how I should just throw these away, yet something in me won’t allow it.  I believe being reminded of the bad allows you to see the good even more.  Remembering where we were last November, I ponder on it for a moment before I am interrupted by my running and laughing almost two-year-old little boy.  My son looks better than he ever has, he is happy, growing, and most importantly healthy.  These socks, though just socks, represent a turning point in our lives, a point where nothing would be as it had been. Little did I know when laying eyes on these socks for the first time while on my son’s feet, the immense changes we had in store.  So I’ve decided to keep this memory with these socks, and turn it into proof that hard work, prayers, and courage can turn any situation around.  Lately, my son will pick up the blood tester, and pretend to poke his finger, he will then pick up the blood glucose monitor and place his finger there to test his blood.  It’s in this gesture that I see my son’s complete acceptance of this life change.  Though there are days he is annoyed with it, and honestly, who wouldn’t be, he is now putting forth the effort at 21-months-old to take control of this and manage it himself.  Just when I didn’t think I could be more proud of, or amazed by my son he surprises me.  As I fold the socks together and place them in my drawer for safe keeping, I pick up my son to cuddle him.  He of course is too busy for the interruption of a hug, so as he wiggles away I quickly give him a kiss, and watch with pure joy as he runs outside to ride bikes with his sister.