January 2002 my boys had turned 5 and 3. For some reason I kept forgetting to make their yearly check up appointment with their pediatrician (maybe it was because I was working part-time, acting as the co-president of the pre-school, upholding home and household and mom responsibilities?) and when I finally remembered I wasn’t able to get them in until March. Within these two months my 5 year old, Griffin began wetting the bed at night and on occasion twice in one night. Griffin was potty trained pretty early (age 2 1/2 which I think is early, especially for a boy!) and had never had any accidents or bed wetting issues. At one point during this time I distinctly remember him looking down at our dog and I thought that my slim boy looked even slimmer. By March and before his appointment, T-ball had started. Griffin would be at practice or in a game and he could not make it from the plate to second base without waving me down for some water because he was so thirsty.
Finally in the third week of March we went to their yearly check-up appointment. Keep in mind our pediatrician knew our family well because my younger son Conner came out of the womb suffering from asthma. In fact, his doctor referred to him as the “happy wheezer” and had said he was the youngest she has ever had diagnosed with asthma. Because it was so severe she had him tested for cystic fibrosis (negative, thank god), he had inhalers, he had to use nebulizers, during the cold months he was prescribed amoxicillin (at the time he could only take in a liquid form and it was known as the worst tasting medicine which only made it that much harder to force a toddler to swallow and would alleviate his cough only to return when he was done taking it), pneumonia, etc. As a mother, it is very difficult to see your child coughing until his little face was so red or coughing until he vomited.
Anyway…..so here we are at the doctor’s office and I was telling her about Griffin wetting the bed, being thirsty, etc. I remember the look on her face, she had a slight frown and said, “lets check his urine.” She came back and said Griffin had a lot of sugar in his urine and then wanted to check his blood.
Griffin’s blood sugar came back with a reading of 429. Keep in mind that a normal blood sugar level is between 80 and 120. She mentioned the word diabetes. I asked if his the high blood sugar could be the symptom of anything else. She said no and immediately sent us to Emanuel Hospital. I was in shock. We left the doctor’s office, I piled the boys in the car and drove to the hospital. On the way there I called their dad and explained what was happening. By this point the gravity of it all had set it and I was in tears but trying to keep it together because I didn’t want to scare Griffin. My ex (at that time still current husband) was in denial, he couldn’t believe it, it was almost as if I had to convince him that his son had diabetes.
We spent the weekend in the hospital, not only for them to stabilize Griffin’s blood sugar but also to educate and teach us about diabetes, how to check blood sugar levels, how to know how much insulin to give and how to give Griffin a shot. It was a lot to learn, it was scary and we knew that our day to day lives would have a different focus.
A little 101 on Type I diabetes:
1. It is not caused by anything like eating too much sugar, etc. but the onset of it can be triggered by an illness like a cold or the flu.
2. The pancreas has stopped working therefore does not produce insulin.
3. You cannot control it with diet and exercise like you can with Type II diabetes. You will always need insulin. The commercials you see on TV regarding diabetes are for Type II diabetics.
4. There are many factors that you cannot control that affect blood sugar, ie illness, sun, worry, stress.
Griffin returned to preschool the following Wednesday and we were so blessed because his preschool teacher also had a child with Type I diabetes. As a new parent to a diabetic child, I was so thankful. And when Griffin moved on to grade school we continued to be blessed with the BEST school and nurse and staff who adored Griffin and took such good care of him. I also want to make note less then two weeks into this Griffin decided that he did not like the way his Dad and I were giving him his shots so at the age of 5 and from that day forward he gave himself his own shots.
So now Griffin is almost 22 years old and has dealt with this disease for the majority of his life. It hasn’t been easy. He has always fought “being different” and today he struggles with the idea that we can put a man on the moon, we have so many advances in science and technology but we have not been able to find a cure for diabetes? I get it. We are closing in on curing this disease and have made great advancements in the last sixteen years that Griffin has had this disease. I have always said to Griffin that I know their will be a cure in his lifetime but until that time comes it is still a daily grind of poking his finger, figuring out how much insulin he needs, giving himself shots and always being cognizant of what time he eats in relation to his workday and when to do his shot and what time of the day it is in relation to his insulin (sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?), picking up his prescriptions, going to doctor’s appointments, etc. He is tired of it and quite often his diabetes maintenance suffers from it BUT despite this he plugs along with doing it all and when he is ready he will fine tune his management of this disease and take control. As his mother I will always be concerned about his health and if he is taking care of his diabetes (I still can’t help telling him to check his blood before he eats). Even when he is 40 I will want to know about his A1c (the overall blood to sugar ratio) because what I see is my sweet, intelligent, good looking, funny (he cracks me up!) boy having to deal with this everyday and the profound effect it has on his life.
November is diabetes awareness month so I wanted to share my story. For more information on Type 1 diabetes please go to http://www.jdrf.org.