Being diagnosed only a month and a day before I turned 2, diabetes quickly became my way of life. It took adjustment on my parents part, but I don't remember living with out diabetes. Some may say that must stink, but in my opinion I am glad I was diagnosed at such a young age. Not knowing anything else besides following a meal plan, checking my blood sugar, and injections, I didn't have to worry about adjusting to a new life style at an older age. Those were all just a part of a typical day. Though I don't remember my first years with diabetes, I am sure I am safe to say it was tough on my parents. Their youngest child takes 2 injections a day. That isn't something parents want to hear they have to do to their child. But, my parents have always given me the best care that they could give me and I am thankful for that. They were (and still can!) able to learn to recognize my symptoms of low blood sugars and treat me accordingly. They made me sugar free desserts on holidays so I wouldn't feel left out. They did a whole lot for me.
As I got older, and entered elementary school, I was now not in the hands of my mother all day. The school nurse needed to be taught about diabetes and hope that I was able to recognize when I was having a reaction. So far, I am lucky enough to say I have only had one severe low blood sugar. It was during then night when I was in first grade. I still remember some little parts of it. It sounds very silly I know, but I remember dreaming my closet door was a fire place... Pretty strange. And I remember after that when I was feeling better, my dad reading me The Three Little Pigs in a fairy tale book I had just gotten for my birthday. That was the only "momentous" happening through elementary school really.
The summer before I was in 3rd grade I decided to go to Clara Barton Camp in North Oxford, Massachusetts. It is two weeks long, and all diabetic girls. (there is a boys camp, Joslin, a few miles away) It was rough my first year there though. I had never been to a sleep over or away from home, let alone left for 2 weeks not knowing anyone at all! I admit, I was very homesick. But everyone was very nice there and I continued to come back every summer. This past year was my 9th summer attending, and I was a CIT (counselor in training) for 4 weeks. It was a wonderful experience! There is nothing better then going to camp and seeing all the people you've met previous years again. I have made so many good friends there that I keep in touch with throughout the year. Also, Clara Barton Camp has programs for kids, families, grandparents throughout the year. I could just keep going on about camp and how much fun it is... I really recommend attending a diabetes summer camp. It teaches you about diabetes, while still having fun. Majority of the activities are just like a regular camp...sports, swimming, art, etc. Plus, all the campers and most of the staff have diabetes as well, which is wonderful as well.
But anyhow, as I entered 6th and 7th grade, I became quite interested in the insulin pump. I called Minimed and requested information on their pump so I could look into it. On March 29, 1996, at Yale New Haven Hospital, I was put on the Minimed pump. It was pretty weird having it connected to me all the time. It didn't hurt by any means, but having tape on my stomach was something that took a little getting use to. But in a few weeks I was not able to tell where my pump site was put in. I couldn't feel where the tape was or anything. My A1c went down drastically. My most recent one (10/27/99) was 6.3 all thanks to the pump and its flexibility. Words can not express how much it has done for me. Not only did it lower my A1c, reducing my risks of developing complications in years to come, but I now was able to be just like the other kids and eat with them. Not having to live by a strict diet. Not have to worry about not being able to sleep in because I would go high or low. Nor did I have to worry about eating at specific times every day. It is just wonderful! I lucked out by having a wonderful diabetes team at Yale to work with. I have nothing but nice things to say about them. People can't believe that I am a diabetic though, because I am able to eat cookies or cake or ice cream just like anyone else. I still of course have to check my blood sugar before I eat, and make sure I count carbohydrates so I can do the appropriate dose of insulin but that is so minor of a hassle.
I don't think I have ever let diabetes get in my way of doing anything I have wanted to. I have been playing softball for the past 11 years and I swam for my high school team my freshman and sophomore year. (didn't this year but will be back next year to swim again) I also am a Big Sister in the Big Brothers/ Big Sisters program, a Peer Advocate, Peer Minister, I have done volunteer work, the JDF's Walk for the Cure, Ethics and Humanities, Stage Crew, as well as other school activities. Diabetes does not control my life. Sure, sometimes I will need to stop what I am doing and check my blood sugar but it isn't a big deal.
The biggest hassle of diabetes to me is writing in my blood sugars. The silly part is, that is probably the easiest thing to do. Writing down blood sugars though does play an important role in having good control of one's diabetes though. Without being able to look at a trend in my blood sugars I am unable to remember if I am constantly high/low at a certain time. That will take a toll on one's A1c. Luckily there are software programs out that I download my meter into every week and it makes my life easier! It also does neat graphs, log books, averages, etc.
My advice to parents.... that is pretty tough to say. I guess I would say dont treat your child any different because he has diabetes. Encourage him to get involved in things to so he knows that he's not different from everyone else. My theory is that children who grow up with diabetes tend to be more responsible. They grow up knowing that being on time for things plays a major role. For example, on injections. If you do a fast acting insulin and wait 2 hours to eat, chances are pretty good that you'll go low. Also, the child has the added responsibility of blood glucose monitoring and is able to be mature enough to not say "eeew gross... blood" or something like that. I also think that diabetics (or anyone with some sort of disability/disease) tend to not be so judgmental of people who are "different". I know that my parents always would say "do you feel ok?" and I completely know that they are just looking after me but there is only so many times you can ask your child that. Let your child go and do things, try not too be too protective. Do congratulate them for their accomplishments or reward them for a good A1c or something. I know that parents reading this are like no way I can't do that... worrying is part of being a parent. These are just some things that I thought of that sort of bothered me when I was younger. (but if you seriously think your child is low, please DO ask if he feels ok!) I don't mean to say any of these things to sound mean or whatnot but....
What I did like that my parents did.... I liked it when my mom would test me while I am sleeping so that if I am high she could do some of my insulin for me while I go back to sleep or if I am low treat me. I bet that you're laughing at me right now but hey, I am lucky enough to have a mom that did (actually, come to think of it, she still does that on weekends!) that for me. It is nice to be able to take a break from finger sticks and have someone else do it. Or when I was on shots have my mom do them. For some reason (don't know why) I didn't let my dad do them. I like occasionally going out for sugar free ice cream. I remember my favorite place was TCBY. They had sugar free frozen yogurt (yummy flavors) along with sugar free whipped cream, hot fudge and chocolate chips. It was great. I liked that my parents were always willing to help me out if I need it.
How I feel about my parents involvement... Well in my past 2 paragraphs I have probably contradicted myself by saying for parents to be less worrisome and then that I like my parents being there. Its tough to say. I am grateful for having my parents there for me when I need them now that I am old enough to manage things my self. I think my parents have always had the right amount of involvement in my diabetes. When I was not ready to learn to do shots myself they were okay with that, and when I finally was ready to, they were there to encourage me. Doing finger sticks was the same way. I remember that I would only like pricking one hand so my mom would do the other one for me. (don't know why but hey...) The way I think of diabetes is, there are so many other diseases that are worse to have and could be fatal, so I guess I am pretty lucky to have "just" diabetes. Diabetes is controllable and if kept in control, not life threatening.
If anyone has any questions, concerns, comments, or whatever, do not hesitate to email me