About a month before Olivia was diagnosed with Diabetes we knew something was wrong. No one drinks an entire bottle of water at once, for no apparent reason. Especially not an eight year old little girl. In addition, because my girls are twins, the weight loss was much more apparent. Their weight had always been almost the same, within a few pounds of one another. For awhile we were able to convince ourselves that these were just passing phases. It got so bad that at one point Olivia was getting up 3-5 times a night to use the bathroom. Luckily, we did manage to escape the frequent bed wetting that is usually associated with undiagnosed Type 1 Diabetics. What we did not escape were the mood swings. If these mood swings are any indication of the hormonal teenage years, God help us all. I may develop and affinity for alcohol after all.
I’m quite sure that almost every parent of a T1 child can remember the moment that their babies finger was poked for the very first time. Most of us probably have that number burned into our brains for eternity. Ours was 475. 475. “Normal” is between 80 and 120. 475. We have a problem. As our doctor rushed from the room I reached for my phone and sent a frantic message to a Type2 family member who had tried to somewhat prepare me for this moment. -“What does 475 mean?” –“She has diabetes.” Those words were going to change our lives in so many ways.
The following 24 hours were a whirlwind of phone calls, explanations, confusion, explanations that caused more confusion, tears, panic, fear, and trust that it would all be ok, somehow. I won’t bore you with the details of our admittance into USA Medical Center in Mobile, Alabama. That experience left us with the affirmation that some people are wonderfully kind, compassionate, caring, nurturing souls. And some people are just… NOT. Fortunately we encountered far more of the first. We spent three days in the hospital and Olivia quickly regained her color and strength. Watching her finally quench her (seemingly never ending) thirst bordered on miraculous.
The second night that we spent in the hospital Olivia only got up once to use the bathroom. Only my fellow D-parents will understand the significance of this. In the following days we began to build the foundation for a complete lifestyle change. It was a change for the better, but it was still a significant change.
Diabetes has impacted our lives in many ways over the last year. There have been negative aspects. It’s a chronic illness. An organ in my child’s body has ceased to function. Olivia has to draw blood from her fingers 5-10 times a day and inject herself with lifesaving medication several times a day in order to be able to eat without her food making her sick. She is awakened to her blood being drawn and juice being shoved down her throat at insane hours of the night/morning. On the other hand, Diabetes has brought some positive changes into our lives as well. We now live a much healthier and more disciplined lifestyle. Physical activity is balanced with diet, hydration, and rest, along with 2,500 other factors that contribute to Olivia’s blood sugar number. If we dare to get lazy with any aspect of care, and sometimes even if we don’t (always a pleasure to see a growth spurt in the middle of a good blood sugar run) Diabetes is always waiting in the wings to snatch us back in line.
We have a million and one things left to learn. Starting the pump next month will be almost like starting from scratch, from what I understand. Unlike the beginning of our journey with Diabetes, we will begin this one armed with the most powerful weapon known to man: Knowledge. At this time last year we were scared parents trying to navigate our way through what was slowly becoming our new normal. Today I feel like the pieces are starting to come together. Maybe we are ready to face this disease head on. Whatever the next year throws at us, we’re ready. If we’re not, we’re fully prepared to figure it out as we go. It’s a pretty great feeling.