Reflections From A Substitute, Substitute Pancreas (AKA: Aunt Shelly)

As we sat in the airport club waiting to board our flight to Las Vegas…our first trip away from our children and since Isabella’s diagnosis…I sent a quick text to Isa’s Aunt Shelly: “Would you be interested in writing a guest blog about your experience managing Isa’s diabetes this weekend?” Her response: “That would be awesome.”  So, here you have it:)
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Isabella and her Aunt Shelly

Isabella and her Aunt Shelly

Last summer my brother asked me if I would watch the trio so he and Kristina could have a long weekend away.  “Absolutely,” was my response.  In December, Greg decided to surprise Kristina for Christmas and take her on a 4 day trip to Las Vegas right after New Year’s and asked if I was sure we were ok with watching the kids.  Again – “absolutely,” I said. I realized that I would be charged with not only adding three 3 year olds to our family of 4 kids, but I would be managing Isa’s T1D. The fact that I was entrusted to take care of Isa was an honor that I didn’t take lightly. I knew I was up for the challenge and off they went…..

Greg and Kristina dropped the kids off on a Wednesday night and thus started Isa’s monitoring.  I was given some base numbers to decide if I should check her in the middle of the night or not, but had already decided that I would feel better just getting up and checking her to be sure all was ok. This meant that I would be checking her around 11:00pm before I went to bed, and then setting my alarm to check her at 3:00am.

Over the next few days I realized that having T1D is very much like having a newborn again. Her glucose must be checked every 2-3 hours and she eats something after each check while inputting her carb counts into her OmniPod insulin pump.  I’ve never had to worry about what food or snacks to give my own children. I just feed them whatever we are having and if they want a few cookies after dinner then so be it.  With Isa, that is so different. I wanted to ensure that each meal and snack had what she needed to keep her levels in check. Overall, I think it went pretty well. She had a day of some higher numbers that really couldn’t be explained unless it was from the one small cookie that she had the day before. She also had some lower numbers in the middle of the night that I offset with some glucose gel to ensure she didn’t drop too low before she awoke. I now know that sometimes, no matter how accurate your carb inputs are or how much you do right, you just can’t explain some of the high and low numbers.

Throughout the 4 days everyone in the house was checking Isa’s glucose for her and at one point she said “Aunt Shelly, none of my cousins are checking me today.” She loves her cousins and definitely feeds off of the attention they give her.

On Saturday morning I was cleaning up from breakfast and all the kids were in the basement playing. I went down to see what they were doing and they were all lined up in front of Isa. I was told that she was “checking” everyone’s levels. It was so cute that they were all pretending to have their fingers pricked, but also sad when I thought about the reality of this for Isa.

Isa had to have an insulin pod change while she was with us as they expire after 3 days. We started the process and she was very positive. She told me it would hurt when the needle went in. I asked her to squeeze my hand to help her. She didn’t even flinch and had not one tear.  That was a proud moment for me.

The day came for Mom and Dad to pick up the kids and I must say I was a bit sad.  As busy as we were taking care of all of them and especially taking care of Isa, I felt a bit empty at their leaving.  I feel honored that I would be trusted to take care of Isa’s life because that’s basically what I was in charge of. Isa’s levels must be monitored constantly and the insulin she receives keeps her alive. I have a whole new respect for this little girl. While she has T1D, the reality is that she’s just a little girl that doesn’t really have a clue of the enormity of the card she has been given in life. I am confident that her independent attitude will take her wherever she wants to be. She lights up the room with her laughter and smile. I will be right there with her along this journey and am thrilled that I get to be her aunt.

Comments

  1. darlene owen says:

    A great description of all that went on during the 4 days. It was a big responsibility especially for someone to learn the ins and outs of caring for a child with T1D. Isa was so good and is such a brave little girl. When it was time to prick her finger for a sugar check, she would just stick her finger out and many times, she did it herself. I was very impressed with you Shelly and how you managed everything like you had been doing this for years.

  2. Thank you for sharing your story Shelly. I hope to meet Isa and her siblings one day. They are very lucky to have all of you.

  3. Carol Denzinger says:

    Wow! Greg and Kristina, Shelly’s story brings tears to my eyes. It demonstrates how blessed you and the triplets are with your extended family. What a loving aunt to take on the responsibility of caring for your little doll and managing her testing, diet and all while you were gone. How touching that it wasn’t just Shelly, but her whole crew that got involved with Isa.

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