Raising a Child With Diabetes: The Diagnosis

Raising a Child With Diabetes: The Diagnosis

Raising a Child With Diabetes: The Diagnosis

They say children are resilient. I believe that. When my son was given life-changing news at such a young age he took it in stride. It hasn’t always been easy on him or us as a family, but he has persevered. He was a student athlete in school and is now in college learning to manage his diabetes with his new lifestyle. As his mother, I never stop worrying or wondering about him and his health.

Hi, I’m Tamara and I’m the mother of a child with Type 1 diabetes. In this blog series, I want to share some stories of our journey over the last 12 years as we’ve raised a well-adjusted young man who deals with his condition.

January 3, 2006 was the day that started it all. It was a Tuesday when I got the call from my son’s second grade teacher asking if he had been sick over the holiday break. His teacher explained that it looked like he had lost a bit of weight over break and she mentioned that he seemed to be extremely thirsty that day, asking many times to be excused to get a drink. He hadn’t been sick so she suggested we make an appointment with his doctor and have him tested for diabetes.

Whoa! Diabetes?

Neither my husband and I have a family history of diabetes and we didn’t know a lot about it. We hadn’t noticed any weight loss, but just to be sure I called his doctor and made an appointment for the following week.

I talked with my husband about the teacher’s concerns and we did what any parent does – we went online to research. After reading the signs and symptoms of diabetes we almost had ourselves convinced that he had it. That night as we laid in bed talking about what this might mean for him, I heard my husband cry for the very first time. There is a fear that overcomes you when faced with the mortality of a child is nothing that a mother or father can ever describe.

The day our world turned upside down

We didn’t make it to our appointment the following week. On Friday, January 6, 2006 I dropped my son off at his babysitter before heading off to work. I left him with a juice and some fruit to eat before school. As I started my day at work I received a call from the babysitter saying that my son had fallen asleep as soon as I dropped him off and when she had him eat his breakfast before school it came right back up. I quickly packed up and headed back home, which was about a 30 minute drive. On the way, I called our doctor’s office and explained to the nurse what was going on. Every muscle in my body went tense as she calmly instructed me to pick him up and immediately bring him to the office. The call to my husband at work was one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make.

When we got to the doctor’s office we were rushed to an exam room where they checked my son’s blood sugar on a standard blood glucose meter. His blood sugar didn’t read on the standard meter and my stomach sunk to the floor. When our doctor came in to speak to us about what was going on it was such a frightening experience. I was hearing the doctor but had a million things running through my mind. How could this happen? I don’t even know anyone with diabetes.

We were sent to the children’s hospital for final diagnosis and immediate treatment. We had so many questions as we looked at our child who struggled to stay awake because his blood sugar was so elevated. The two-hour drive to the children’s hospital was a blur. When we arrived, they were expecting us. First it was liter after liter of fluids. Then came the insulin. Then the news that we’d be at the hospital for four days to undergo diabetes boot camp, an intense program to teach you all about blood sugar checks, trending, A1c tests and nutrition – the list went on and on. All the while my son was so sleepy he couldn’t keep his eyes open.

After twenty-four hours of sleep and countless overnight finger sticks my son finally woke up. As I lay beside him in his room staring at the cartoon Band-Aids on every finger I struggled with the words to explain his diagnosis and the changes it would mean for the rest of his life. When I explained that he had type 1 diabetes and that he’d have to check blood sugars and take shots of insulin every day he wasn’t fazed. He didn’t cry. He didn’t ask a lot of questions. He just listened and learned right alongside my husband and I for three remaining days.

It’s all about learning

In those four days, we established a partnership with the endocrinologists, dieticians and diabetic educators. We worked on an insulin regimen by trial and error to help determine the best insulin to carbohydrate ratio. We followed these steps that day and every few months after when my son had a change in schedule, sport or growth.

  • Check your blood sugar before eating and write down your result.
  • Count your carbs & give insulin. Write down the insulin-to-carb ratio you are using. Many health care professionals will recommend you start with 1 unit of insulin for every 15g carbs.
  • Check your blood sugar 2 hours after eating and write down your result.
  • Follow this process for a few days before adjusting your ratio. When you do adjust, small increments are best. Be sure to communicate this with your partners on the medical team.

This was just the beginning of our story and I’ve got a lot more to share. Check back for part II to hear about how each school year started, conversations with coaches and realizations that this condition could hold him back from things in life.

Parenting is a hard gig as it is. Having a child with a chronic illness or condition adds another layer of difficulty. If you’re trying to navigate the obstacles of being a parent of a child with diabetes, here are a few things to consider:

  • First and foremost, don’t be afraid to ask questions of your child’s doctor, diabetes educator, or dietitian. They are part of your team.
  • Learn how to read nutrition labels.
  • Learn the difference between simple and complex sugars.
  • Learn how to calculate carbohydrate to insulin unit ratio.
  • Learn how to educate other adults that have daily interaction with your child.

If you have questions or a story to tell, share with us in the comments!

Presented by: Tamara Martin