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When your child is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes there are many questions you have about diet, insulin, exercise and basically, life. You take it one day at a time and soon diabetes care becomes a part of your day-to-day routine. You start to think to yourself that you’ve got it under control and start to instill a level of comfort in your child. You tell your child that there’s nothing they can’t do while managing their diabetes.
Then comes the day that your precious 8-year-old proclaims to you that he’s going to be just like his uncle and become a soldier. You see, my brother was part of the infantry in the Illinois National Guard. In 2006 he served 11 months in Iraq. My brother lived with us when my son was a toddler and they formed a very tight bond. As we drove home from visiting my brother one day my son proclaimed from the back seat that he was going to be a soldier. Since my husband had been a Navy recruiter I knew that having Type 1 diabetes was a disqualifier for the military.
In an even tone and tears in my eyes I explained to my son that because of his diabetes that he wouldn’t be able to join the military to be a soldier. That it was too dangerous for him to do that. Soon I heard sobbing from the back seat and a quiet, “That’s not fair.” And I could do nothing but agree and comfort him as much as I could. It was the first time my son cried about having diabetes.
As a parent, you try your best to encourage your children to follow their dreams, explore every avenue and never give up. You don’t anticipate your child coming up against an impenetrable brick wall. At which time you do your best to console them and talk to them about other things that they could do.
I think that incident was a profound one for my son. At that tender age, he realized that having a medical condition that is considered a disability, or handicap, might label him but he wasn’t going to let it hold him back. He began educating his classmates about his diabetes. He showed them how he checked his blood sugar, how he administered his insulin, how he counted his carbohydrates and why he had to carry a bag full of supplies and snacks.
I think this attitude about his diabetes is why he’s been as successful as he has been in his short 19 years on Earth. He played three sports all through school and he graduated valedictorian of his high school class. He was involved in many school clubs and managed to keep his diabetes under control. To this day, he has not been back for a hospital stay due to his diabetes.
The last 12 years haven’t been without hurdles, but managing your child’s diabetes does become part of your daily routine. Next time I’ll talk about how we dealt with difficult situations with older kids at school and some of the emotional toll Type 1 diabetes has on a teenager.
How do you help your child deal with life’s barriers?
Presented by: Tamara Martin
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