Being November and Diabetes Awareness Month and Diabetes Blog Day, I figured I would try my hand at the Diabetes Talk Fest topic…Six Things You Want People to Know About Diabetes. So here we go….
- Diabetes Kills. I learned this first hand on March 17, 2000. I held a lifeless two year old in my arms. His breathing was raspy. He was nothing but bones. How had this happened so quickly? What was wrong? The doctor told me he had diabetes and was in ketoacidosis. His body was eating itself to survive and at that moment they didn’t know if he would survive. He was put in ICU and we were told that the next 12 hours would tell the tale. Thankfully he survived but I have since lost friends who didn’t.
- Diabetes is a big deal. Diabetes care is more than just take an aspirin and call me in the morning. Its a 24/7 job. My child gets up and tests his blood glucose level. This morning he was high so he gave himself more insulin and we checked to make sure all was okay with his insulin pump. I made him breakfast and totalled the carbohydrates he would eat. Before food touched his mouth, he bolused (gave himself insulin) for the food he would eat. As he prepared for school, I made sure that he had the carbohydrate count for his lunch. In a few minutes I will text him and remind him to test his blood again. He will do this again before he eats and two hours after each meal. He will test more if he is low (has too much insulin in his body). He will test before he closes his eyes at night. I will wake through the night and test to ensure that he survives. I am not making a mountain out of a mole hill. This is what we need to do to keep him healthy.
- He looks healthy because we work so hard to keep him that way. After over 10 years with diabetes, my son is not as healthy as he is by accident. I have worked day and night to correct, adjust, weigh, measure, and balance insulin to activity levels–basically to be a human external pancreas. Now that he has reached his teen years, the battle is harder as we work to deal with more hormones, a desire for independence, and a need to let go.
- No he will not grow out of his diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body attacks the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. It is irreversible. A low calorie diet will not “cure” him, nor will special shoes or a magic drink. He has an organ in his body that no longer works properly. He will no more out grow his diabetes than a person with a heart condition will grow a new heart.
- Even for all of our hard work, diabetes is hard on my child’s body. In one day we can see blood glucose levels swing from low and requiring extra food because there is too much insulin in his system to incredible highs because there has been a release of growth hormones causing him to require more insulin in his system. These highs and lows wreak havoc on a person’s system. I can watch my son lay on the couch because he is low and feels weak and later be drinking every ounce of liquid he can find because he is high and thirsty. This is terrifying to watch as you can only imagine what it is doing to his body. You can feel the kidneys being damaged and so much more. It is my job as a parent to protect him and his body and diabetes makes that task virtually impossible.
- Why we need a cure. Diabetes takes a toll on everyone involved. It takes a physical toll on my son as I mentioned. It takes an emotional toll on him as well. When others are playing he is testing and recovering quietly from a low blood glucose level. While others are eating he is testing, counting carbohydrates and injecting insulin in his system. It takes a toll on those around him. Siblings may complain about the time spent on the child with diabetes. Parents can become exhausted testing at all hours and worrying about their child’s care. There is also a huge financial burden and worry. Diabetes care costs. Test strips are close to a dollar a piece and we use at least 10 per day. There is the cost of insulin, pumps, syringes, infusion sets and cartridges. If you are lucky you can afford a continuous glucose system that will provide a real time guide of blood glucose level trends but the sensors cost too much for those of us without insurance.
Only six things and yet there is so many other things that the public needs to know. Diabetes is terribly misunderstood. Technology has increased the visibility of the disease but the public still does not know the difference between a cell phone and an insulin pump. Perhaps this blogging topic along with so many others who are using social media to educate John Q Public this November and throughout the year will truly make a difference in public perception.