Category Archives: diabetes related death

Is Diabetes More Deadly than Ever? The question remains

Is Diabetes More Deadly than Ever was one of my most read posts.  It was originally written in October of 2010 but the questions are still there. Our children are still dying but is social media making us more aware or is tight control trading a reduction in complications tomorrow for a higher risk of death today? 

Yesterday I heard of another child who died because of Type 1 diabetes.  She was thirteen years old–the age of my own son.  She had Type 1 diabetes–like my son.  She had parents who loved her and who were diligent in her diabetes care but she died anyway.  That is every parent’s greatest fear.  She had hopes and dreams.  She wanted to die an old woman with a book on her chest…sadly she died before she became old or had any experience as a woman. It is truly heartbreaking.

This is not the first death from diabetes that we have heard of in just this past year.  This is not the first time that I have heard of someone so young being taken by this disease. This death led me down a path of contemplation.  Why were so many people dying? Was this something new? Did we lose children to this disease before? Had we traded rapid insulin and better technology for a higher chance of death?

Those of us who live with the unwanted houseguest called “Diabetes”, know that with tight control which promises prolonged health is the risk of severe hypoglycemia and death. Its a risk most of us take with some caution.  We try to keep the A1c down.  We work to maintain “normal” blood glucose readings at the risk of becoming hypoglycemic unaware.  Its a scary balance.  Night is our enemy as we fear, as these parents did, of waking up to our children “Dead in Bed”.

I put the question out to many parents yesterday–was diabetes more deadly now because of the advances we have or do we hear about death more because of social networking and our reliance on the internet?

The answers were mixed.  Many had a new fear of this age of puberty (the last number of deaths were young teens).  Were teens more suseptible because of insulin needs that changed on a daily basis with incredible swings?  Did adolescence and its rebellion breed a greater risk of deadly behaviors in children with diabetes?

Others felt that technology was a good thing.  We were not seeing as many complications as we once did but they noted that try as we might, we are just not pancreases.  We could not do enough to mimick Mother Nature.  We were not God and could not anticipate all of the body’s needs.  Despite our best efforts, some form of complications or worse were likely to happen at one point. That was terrifying.

We have children and we realize a need to protect them.  Many are devistated by the diabetes diagnosis because they feel that they have failed to protect their child/children.  After diagnosis, the need to protect becomes even stronger because we failed the first time around.  Now it becomes our job to keep their bodies healthy and strong. We fight to make sure that they have a normal life–as normal as it is to live with syringes, pumps, glucometers, and glucose tablets with you 24/7.  To read of a death just shows us that our best just may not be enough.

Yes, I realize that my choice of pronouns has changed from someone else to me. I have always felt it was my job to protect my children and yet my son almost died because of diabetes and misdiagnosis.  It is now my job to turn him over a healthy body when he leaves my care.  Its a difficult job especially since he is at an age when he is looking for his own independence.  I, like many before me, face the challenge of trying to teach him to care for himself and to be there to pick him up and dust him off when he makes mistakes. Death however makes us want to hold them close forever and never sleep again. We want to be in their lives 24/7 and keep them safe.

So to get back to my original question–has diabetes become more deadly? Probably not but it is still no less scary and no less deadly.  Diabetes DOES kill despite those who think otherwise.  The fear is real and, while possibly magnified by the internet, the danger is still present. The answer? We need a cure.  Its sadly that simple. Until there is a cure, we will continue to hover and pray.  We will lean on each other in a way not available to generations before.  We will learn from each other and move forward but we will never forget those that we have lost….

For Eilish, for Paul, and for too many others.

A matter of perspective

Yesterday a friend had posted that it was the anniversary of one of the worst days of their life.  It was the anniversary of their son’s diagnosis with diabetes.  Yesterday I also watched as candles were lit all over the diabetes online community.  More children were dying because of this disease. 

My mind thought back to  the day of my own son’s diagnosis.  Was it the worst day of my life? Was it one of the worst days of my life? My answer was no.  That surprised me. How could something so devastating, a time period that was so terrifying not be ranked as one of the worst days of your life?

Simple…my son is alive.  The day my son was diagnosed is firmly etched in my mind. I can relive almost the entire day in exquisite detail.  I never forget March 17, 2000 and each March I silently countdown until that fateful day but it still is a day that I remain grateful for. 

That day, so many years ago, my son was a lifeless bundle.  His body was cold.  His breathing was laboured.  With each intake of breath, I prayed he would live to take one more.  All I wanted was my son to live. He was only two. He had so much more living to do. I wanted him to grow to have his own children. I wanted him to bury me not the other way around.

My prayers were answered.  My son was alive.  He is now a charming teenager.  He is tall, smart and handsome.  He also has diabetes.  That brings its challenges but we are both here to meet them. 

March 17, 2000 was not the worst day in my life.  Had I had to live through the pain that the families of Emily Mak and others are facing, in having to bury their children then it definitely would have been the worst day of my life. That day remains etched in my mind. Our world changed forever. Nothing has ever been the same.  My son is still with us though and together we work to keep him healthy and safe.  In the grand scheme of things, its a day to celebrate because its the day Diabetes did NOT win and my baby is here as proof.  I pray we all have a lot more of those days.

Blue Candles

For those of us in the diabetes community, the title says it all–Blue Candles. They are the candles that we light in cyberspace to remember someone with diabetes who has lost the fight. Each month, each week, we seem to see these images pop up across the online community.  As profile pictures are changed on Facebook stories emerge, fears grow and the desire for a cure is that much stronger.

This time the candles are being lit for a bright, young fourteen year old girl. She was diagnosed when she was four years old.  She laid down for a nap and her father found her dead on her bed a few hours later.  The story sends chills down my spine.  She did not die at night. She passed away sometime during the afternoon.  We do not know many of the details.  We only know that she was far too young to die.

I don’t tell my son about these stories any more. He is almost the same age and has had diabetes for a few years more than she did. I don’t light candles on my Facebook profile.  I don’t write about half of the stories that I hear.  I can’t. I read about these children–whether they are fourteen or forty, they are still someones children.  My heart breaks for the parents and the families. I hug my boys a little closer. I pray a little harder. I hope for the very best.
I was reading a story one day of another child lost and of course had teared up a little. Someone told me that many children sadly die each day.  It could be a complication from cancer or an asthma attack but other diseases kill as well. It was suggested that I can’t focus on these deaths and be obsessed or paranoid. I reassured this person that I wasn’t. I read. I mourn. My heart aches for the families and I grieve for the life cut short before its time. 

It is true that our children die crossing the street, riding in cars and playing in swimming pools.  As parents, we do our very best to protect them.  We teach them to look both ways before crossing the street. We put them in car seats and demand that they were seat belts.  We teach them water safety and we warn them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.  All in all we do our very best to guide them and pray that they will be okay.

As parents of children with diabetes, we do all of that “normal” stuff and then we do a little more.  We work to help them to recognize highs and lows.  We test them as often as we can.  We keep tight control to prevent complications and fear going too far and having to wake to a child gone because of a low.  These fears are real. They do not keep me up all night but they do wake me up at 2am to test.  They do not stop me from letting my son be a child but it does make me check his pockets for glucose and his cell phone when he goes out.

As a parent, I cannot protect either of my children 24/7 for the rest of their lives. I wish I could. As much as I love watching them grow, think and spread their wings, part of me craves for the days past when I held them tight and could keep them safe in my arms.  They are growing. My oldest son is driving and almost out of school.  My youngest is well into his teen aged years and venturing off on his own more and more.  Diabetes or not, I can only pray I have done my best, continue to do as much as I can and leave the rest up to a higher power.

Last night was my son’s first night home after a few weeks away. I went to bed and woke a few hours later than I had planned to but he was low. The story of young Carson played itself out in the back of my head. After 45 minutes and a lot of juice, his blood glucose levels were back in range and I could return to bed. I said a prayer of thanks that I woke up to test him. I prayed for Carson’s family.  I touched my son’s hair and wanted to hold him tight and kiss him gently on the forehead like I used to when he was small. He is now a teen. If I did anything beyond quietly touch his hair he would wake up creeped out and would claim nightmares for the rest of the night! Instead, I watched him sleep and I thanked God that he was alive, healthy and happy.

I will test my son at all hours. I will remind him to bolus.  I will deal with late night lows.  I will demand to know where he is going when he leaves the house. I will preach the evils of smoking, drug use and the dangers of too much alcohol.  That is my job and I need to know that when I close my eyes I have done that job to the best of my ability. This will never guarantee the 100% safety of either of my boys but its my very best and that is all a parent can ever do.