By Lauri Savage
My son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 15 months. His onset was sudden, severe and life-threatening. Although living with diabetes is challenging, nothing compares to the fear of almost losing a loved one. Our 20-year family journey with diabetes provides me, a parent, with a unique perspective and I hope to share this with you.
When my son was a baby, I vividly recall people saying, “How can you give a baby shots?”
I guarantee any parent could give their child a shot if it was a means of keeping them alive. With Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is not producing insulin, so injections through syringes or an insulin pump are needed to live.
As my son went through his childhood, we found the right balance of vigilance and living life. Here is what I mean by this: it is critical for people with diabetes to keep their blood glucose levels in the right range. Either a very low blood glucose level or a very high blood glucose levels can result in a medical emergency. With a low blood sugar, giving the person sugar through glucose tables or another quick acting source restores the person to normalcy over time. With a high blood sugar, additional insulin is needed. In the extreme case, without proper medical management, either a very low or high blood sugar could have a serious outcome.
As the parent of a child with diabetes, you must strike a balance between monitoring every morsel your child consumes and allowing high sugar or high carbohydrate foods to be consumed. No longer is it true that sweets and treats can’t be enjoyed, but moderation is key. Physical activity is beneficial for all of us, and is good for a child with diabetes too. But this also involves testing blood glucose before, during and after sports and keeping levels in the right range.
Before you know it, the teen-age years have arrived. By this point, my son had gained great independence in managing his diabetes, testing his own blood glucose level and administering insulin with supervision. Along the way, he was spending nights away from home with friends. This required making sure that the parents had a general understanding of diabetes and how to respond if an emergency arose. Often my husband or I would have to drop by during a sleep over just to monitor our son’s diabetes.
Fast forward to my son getting his driver’s license and the prospect of teen parties and imagine more potential worries. Luckily, my son has always been responsible and takes good care of his diabetes. That doesn’t mean that we did not have a few medical emergencies over the 20 years of his living with this disease. It is just impossible to be always be prepared, but fortunately things always worked out
Of course, all of this pales in comparison to the day when you bring your almost 18 year-old to college. I’ll cover this in my next post on We R the Cure.