Diabetes affects the whole family, whether you’re a parent, sibling, child, grandchild or spouse. This week on the blog, we’ll be featuring stories about loving and caring for someone with diabetes.
I love someone with diabetes: my daughter, Katherine Elizabeth. She is 9 years old.
Katherine was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on Jan. 7, 2015, at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock.
The symptoms started a couple of weeks before. Katherine started to say a parent’s favorite two words over and over: “I’m hungry.” I could never seem to fill her up. She was constantly having snacks in between meals.
Then, “I’m thirsty.” She consumed glasses and glasses of water and any drink that was within reach. I didn’t think much of it, because after all, she’s a growing child. I mean, what kid isn’t hungry or thirsty?
Oddly, she began to get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. I thought maybe I shouldn’t let her have water at her bedside, if it’s keeping her from getting a solid night of sleep. I am now grateful that I did not restrict her fluids.
Katherine has always been tall and thin, almost the tallest in her class every year. So I wondered: “Why is she not gaining weight from eating this much?” In fact, she began to lose weight.
On Jan. 7, I was driving through the car pool line when her teacher stopped me. She told me that Katherine hadn’t felt well in PE; her stomach hurt and she appeared pale. But when Katherine got in the car, she said she felt fine.
I called Katherine’s pediatrician. Still to this day, I don’t know what made me do it. Amazingly they had an appointment in 30 minutes with a different doctor in the practice. This doctor checked her blood glucose; it was 451 mg/dL. A second glucometer confirmed, and her urine resulted positive for glucose. They told us to go to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital ER.
The diagnosis came soon after, and it changed our lives.
I am a registered nurse and have worked in the ICU for over a decade now. I know the finger sticks, the carb counts, the sacrifices and, most importantly, the insulin shots—all required to manage this disease for the rest of Katherine’s life. I was consumed with shock, anger and sadness, but somehow I found the strength to hold my daughter’s hand and say with a smile, “Honey, this is all going to be okay.”
Diabetes has impacted our entire family. I spend hours in the grocery store reading food labels. I use measuring cups and spoons more than ever before. I log and analyze her blood glucose responses to different foods and amounts. I take longer to prepare school lunches, as I have to include a note indicating exactly what it consists of and the carb counts so the school nurse can give the right dose of insulin. On a positive note, everyone in the family has changed their eating habits and we are all on a road to being healthier.
We are inspired by Katherine’s positive attitude every day. Strength, courage, determination, sacrifice, commitment, faith and hope—THAT is what little girls are made of. (The heck with sugar and spice!)
When you or someone you love is diagnosed with diabetes, you feel so many things—and it’s all normal. That there are times when it is normal to feel abnormal. It’s okay to feel that diabetes is NOT okay. It’s not okay that someone has to endure finger pricks and four insulin shots a day.
But know you’re not alone. Get involved with your local American Diabetes Association and JDRF—they have offered us great support and resources. Educate the whole family so you become more comfortable with diabetes.
I wish for a cure. I honestly believe that one day we will have one. This is an incredibly exciting time in diabetes research. Through stem cell research and advanced knowledge of immunology, I have hope for a world without this life-altering disease. I want to make diabetes history.
I asked Katherine herself to give me one sentence about diabetes. She said: “When you first think about it, it’s not nearly as hard as you think it will be,” with a smile and a giggle. Children are our real heroes!