All week long, we’re featuring stories from parents of children with type 1 diabetes, describing how their families have adapted to life with diabetes.
Location: Phoenix, Ariz.
I never really liked Cheetos. Sure, they taste fine and all, but there is something about the remnants of Cheeto dust on your fingers getting on everything else that just doesn’t seem worth the investment.
I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in March 2010. I was angry, as I take care of myself—by being active, by maintaining a healthy weight and by not eating badly (okay, well, not that badly). After my diagnosis I tried to learn all I could about what causes diabetes and how I could begin to alter my lifestyle and live with it. I didn’t do very well. I was miserable, exhausted and felt awful.
Sept. 8, 2012 ended like any ordinary day: I picked up my son, William, from daycare, and we stopped into a Walgreens, as he pleaded with me to get some Cheetos. William had discovered this magical food a few weeks back. At his first encounter, he was very curious about the bright orange bag with a cool cheetah guy in sunglasses hanging around all the potato chips. From that moment on, he was a Cheetos fanatic.
As I talked to my wife, Laura, that evening, I started becoming concerned. Will was always thirsty and going to the bathroom. He was tired, lethargic and having a hard time focusing and listening to our instructions. That night I decided to use my blood glucose meter to check him (my wife thought I was crazy!). The meter read HIGH. That was it, no number, just HIGH. We decided to take William to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, where he was admitted with a blood glucose level of 716.
As I carried William out to the car to head to the hospital, he looked me in the eyes and asked if we were going to get him more Cheetos. “I love Cheetos, Dad,” he said. I promised him that we would get him some. As we drove past the Walgreens where William had his first Cheetos experience, a wave of thoughts crashed into my head. Was it the Cheetos? Is it my fault that William has high blood glucose? Did I do this to him? All of the emotions, confusion and anger that I felt when I was first diagnosed came back tenfold.
William spent three days in the hospital. Time after time the nurses and doctors all said to me, “Well, you have type 1 diabetes yourself, so you understand.” Those words didn’t mean much to me, and if anything they only added more stress. I kept thinking, “If I can’t control my own diabetes, how in the world will I control his?”
After we brought William home, I took two weeks off work. Those two weeks with him were some of the most powerful in my life. As William and I worked together to measure food, count carbs and calculate dosages, I thought back to the words from the doctors and nurses. And then it hit me! That was the reason I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes—so I could understand what my son was going through, so I could be with him and support him, so we could be a team.
Since William has been diagnosed, I have been able to control my own diabetes. I still don’t take as good of care of myself as I should, but I am much better than before. Some people say it was me who saved William from getting too far along without treatment for his diabetes, that I saw the warning signs, that I saved his life. In reality, he saved mine. The time William and I spent together right after his diagnosis forced me to look at my own health. In order to understand his diabetes and treatment, I had to understand mine. Now we work together as a team to stay healthy.
When William and I go out to eat, we both have our insulin kits and help each other with blood glucose checks. He reads the number for me on the monitor! He is amazing, and when I am having an awful day because I’m having high or low blood glucose levels, I just think of him. If Will can do this and have nothing to complain about, then so can I. William needs me to be healthy just like I need him to be.
Oh, and he doesn’t like Cheetos anymore!