Raising a Child With Diabetes: The Diagnosis

Raising a Child With Diabetes: The Diagnosis

Raising a Child With Diabetes: The Diagnosis

Parenting is a tough job. Being the parent of a child with a chronic illness or condition adds another layer of difficulty.

Hi, my name is Tamara and I’m the mother of a child with Type 1 diabetes. In this series of blogs, I want to share a glimpse of our journey over the last 12 years as we’ve done our best to raise a well-adjusted child that manages his condition.

The beginning

It was on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2006 that I got the call at work from my son’s second grade teacher. She asked if he had been sick over the holiday break. She thought that it looked like he had lost a bit of weight over the break. She also mentioned the number of times that he asked for permission to go to the water fountain. There was no recent illness to speak of so she suggested we make an appointment with his doctor and have him tested for diabetes.

Whoa! Back up. Diabetes? My husband and I have no family history of diabetes and we didn’t know the first thing about it. I hadn’t noticed the weight loss that his teacher did, but to err on the side of caution I called his doctor and made an appointment for the upcoming week.

When I mentioned the teacher’s call to my husband that evening we did what any parent does – we went online to research. After reading the signs and symptoms, and horror stories of diabetic complications 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 first time. There is a fear that overcomes you when faced with the mortality of a child. It’s nothing that a parent can ever describe.

I’ll never forget

We didn’t make it to his appointment that I scheduled for the following week. On Friday, Jan. 6, 2006 I dropped my son off with his babysitter. I left him with a banana and some juice 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 it immediately came back up. I packed up my things and headed back home, which was about 30 minutes from the office. On the way, I called our doctor’s office and explained to the nurse what was going on. The nurse calmly instructed me to pick him up and bring him to the office immediately. Making the call to my husband at work was one of the hardest calls I’ve ever had to make.

Once we arrived at the doctor’s office, we were taken back to an exam room where my son’s blood sugar was checked on a blood glucose meter. When it didn’t read on a standard meter my stomach sunk to the floor. When our doctor came in to speak to us about what was going on and I think I only caught only half of what he said. I was hearing the doctor but had a million things running through my mind. How could my child have diabetes? I don’t even know anyone with diabetes.

We were referred to the children’s hospital for final diagnosis and treatment. My husband and I had so many questions running through our minds as we looked at our child who couldn’t even stay awake because his blood sugar was so elevated. That long two-hour drive to the children’s hospital was a blur. They were expecting us when we arrived. First my son was given liter after liter of fluids. Then came the insulin. Then the news that we’d be at the hospital undergoing diabetes boot camp for the next three days. Diabetes boot camp was an intense program to teach the whole family about blood sugar checks, trending, A1c tests and nutrition – the list went on and on. My son slept that whole first day and doesn’t remember anything that happened.

Moving forward

After a full day of sleep and countless blood sugar checks overnight my son finally woke up. It was a struggle to find the words to explain his diagnosis and what it would mean for him as I lay in the cot beside him in his room staring at the cartoon Band-Aids on every finger. When I told him that he had type 1 diabetes and that he’d have to check blood sugars and take shots of insulin multiple times a day he was not fazed. He didn’t get angry or show much emotion. He didn’t ask a lot of questions. He just listened and learned alongside my husband and me.

In the four days, we were at the hospital we established a partnership with the dieticians, endocrinologists and diabetic educators. We worked with the staff to find an insulin regimen to help my son manage his blood sugar. There was no exact answer, it was trial and error to find the best insulin to carbohydrate ratio. We followed these steps and always went back to this process when my son had a change is schedule, sport or growth.

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

Many say that children are resilient. I believe that. At the age of seven my son was given life-changing news and took it in stride. It has not been easy on him or our family, but he has overcome. He managed as a student athlete all throughout school and is now in college learning to manage his diabetes with his changing lifestyle. The worrying or wondering about him and his health never ends.

This was just the beginning of our journey. Check back to hear about how each school year started, conversations with coaches and realizations that this disease could hold him back from things in life.

If you’re just starting to navigate the obstacles of being a parent of a child with diabetes, here are a few things to consider:

  • Learn how to calculate carbohydrate to insulin unit ratio.
  • Do your best to learn how to read nutrition labels.
  • Learn the difference between simple and complex sugars.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your child’s doctor, diabetes educator, or dietitian.
  • Learn how to educate other adults that interact with your child.

Do you have questions? Have a story to tell? Share with us in the comments.

Presented by: Tamara Martin