Guilt

laughterTears. Lots of tears.

Arms flailing, screams echoing through the house. A chorus of doors slamming and feet stomping rattle the walls.

Dr. Jekyll, meet Mr. Hyde.

So often people tell us that Isabella seems so happy, always full of smiles. We share photos of her with her silly grin, stretching from ear to ear, proud of this and happy about that. To the outsider she seems like a toddler full of so much joy, conquering each daily challenge with a hop in her step and a shine in her eyes.

But not today.

Today she is losing…and so are we.

One of the many challenges of type 1 diabetes is that its affects can vary person by person. Some can feel their lows coming, getting tired and shaky. Others, like Isabella, show no sign that their blood sugar is falling to a dangerous level. In fact, Isabella is almost always giddy and laughing when she is low.

As difficult as it is to tell her lows, her highs are hard to miss. The happy, goofy 4-year-old disappears and an anger-filled stranger takes her place and, as has become routine, she is exiled to her room until she calms down…usually falling asleep, exhausted from screaming and crying.

And I feel guilty.

I feel guilty because I know her body is playing a mean game of “Perfection”…just waiting for the sand timer to run out while trying everything to get her blood sugar back in range before scattering all of the pieces to the ground. No matter how hard we try, it always seems like the sand is faster than the insulin running through her body and we lose…a lot.

But there she is, sent to her room to cry it out and sleep it off. Kept home from a classmate’s birthday party because of her diabetes-assisted tantrum. Punishment for a disease she didn’t choose and for effects she can’t control.

And I feel guilty.

We get home from the party and prepare for bath time. I’m still angry at Isabella for her earlier fit, and even more frustrated that she doesn’t understand why she couldn’t go with her brother and sister. As she steps into the tub a mix of emotions hit me as I catch a glimpse of the technology keeping her alive. An insulin pod attached to her arm and her continuous glucose monitor embedded in her lower back…my robotic daughter.

And I feel guilty. And I am mad. Mad at this disease and mad at what it does to my beautiful little girl. Mad that I can only control so much and mad that I feel guilty for trying to parent the best way that I can.

And tomorrow we’ll flip the sand timer again…

Cheers to Changing the World~
Kristina

Why We All Need A Patty

Isa and Addison

Most people would look at this photo and see two little girls, happy and smiling…without a care in the world. What you’re really looking at are two AMAZING 3-year-olds fighting the challenges thrown at them by type 1 diabetes.

We had an awesome day with little Addison and her family today where we enjoyed pizza,  pump site changes (one planned and one not!), high (400) & low (48) blood sugars, and the beginning of an adorable friendship between two toddlers who’ve found a friend that “has didabeeeteees too!”

Watching Addison ask Isa if she wanted stickers to decorate her new insulin pod and holding her hand during her site change…and seeing Addison timidly show Isa her continuous glucose monitor adorning her little belly…it made me realize just how much it matters to have someone by your side who’s fighting the same battle as you. And I’m not just talking about the girls.

When Isabella was diagnosed we were in the hospital for less than 24 hours when we had a knock on our hospital room door.  In walked a woman that, though I didn’t realize it at the time, would set the scene for how I would be as a mother of a child with T1D.

Over the next hour this woman, Patty, told us about her life as a mom and wife to children AND a husband with Type 1.  She gave us a book of information about diabetes care she had photocopied from when one of her children was first diagnosed. She told us about diabetes camps and the difference they had made in her children’s lives.  She smiled. She laughed.  And her hair and makeup looked great.

She was normal.  

I wanted to be like Patty.

Before Christmas this past year a classmate of Isa’s was diagnosed with Type 1.  Up until that moment Isa had been the only child in her school with diabetes.  I didn’t know the family of this newly diagnosed child and had heard they would be moving and leaving the school over the holidays.  The day before the holiday break I went to the school to pick up the kids and, almost as if it was meant to be, the little boy’s father was there picking him up.  I am a firm believer in fate, and this was it.  It was my turn to be Patty.

I passed our contact info on to the dad and encouraged him to reach out to Greg or I if he or his wife needed anything. I told him about our experience with the OmniPod pump and about the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life Conference we attended in Orlando. I told him we were just a year post diagnosis so we were still learning, too, but that we could certainly provide advice based on our short experience. I was sure I’d return home that day to an email from this family with a list of questions I could answer. 

I was wrong. I was obviously no Patty.

Today while chatting with Addison’s mommy and daddy I was reminded of how important it is for parents of T1D kids to connect. To share stories of what’s worked and what hasn’t.  To commiserate about those unexplained lows and to curse the technology that, in reality, is helping us keep our children alive. To beam with pride when our kids exhibit bravery we could never muster.

We all need a Patty to remind us that our lives as our kid’s substitute pancreas won’t be easy, but to keep in mind that our kids will take their cues from us. It’s up to us to assure them that their diabetes, though a part of who they are, doesn’t define them. It’s up to us to let them know that there is an Addison somewhere out there to hold their hand.

So, for those of you who are newly diagnosed, or those who have just gotten the courage to seek out some support, we are here. I may not be a Patty but I can assure you that my hair and makeup look great, too.

Cheers to Changing the World,
Kristina

 

When Routine Is Not So Routine

surgery2On Monday Isabella had two fairly routine surgeries…one to remove a small, pea-sized bump on the left side of her neck (she was born with it) and another to insert tubes in her ears (we wouldn’t have known about the fluid in her ears if she hadn’t see the ENT doctor about the bump on her neck!). As parents of a child with type one diabetes, you quickly learn that “routine” procedures are never quite routine anymore. You have to be prepared for everything.

Isabella had known about her surgery since the day she met with the doctor. She knew that the doctor would make a cut in her neck to take out the bump and also knew that he would put some tubes in her ears.  She understood all of this as we talked with her about it several times…yet I never really saw her show any signs of fear or anxiety. In fact, in the weeks leading up to her surgery, she loved telling her brother and sister that the doctor was going to remove her bump and put tubes in her ears. She told them as if to rub it in that SHE was going to the doctor and THEY weren’t (our kids love doctor visits!).

The night before the surgery I went to check Isa’s level before bed and heard her say in her sleep, “blah, blah, blah…tomorrow…blah, blah, blah.” At that moment, I knew that she was nervous about the surgery. I sat there thinking what a strong, brave and courageous little girl she is, a fact I’m reminded of on a daily basis. I corrected her low blood sugar, something that would be more difficult in another hour since she had to fast after midnight and up until the surgery (not an ideal situation for someone with T1D!). A few hours later she climbed into our bed with a fever, a cough and tears. She tossed and turned for the next several hours until we woke her to leave for the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital early in the morning, about two hours prior to her surgery.  After registering Isabella they called us to one of the hospital rooms where we met with a nurse.  She started asking us questions about Isabella’s diabetes. Isabella was being very quiet and shy.  Then we were visited by a child life specialist, who really made Isabella feel comfortable and she started to come out of her shell.

Unfortunately, Isabella’s cough had gotten a bit worse and her fever was starting to come back. The anesthesiologist expressed some concern and we thought that they might cancel the surgery. While we were hoping the doctors would make the best decision to ensure our daughter’s safety, we really didn’t want to reschedule the surgery for another day. Thankfully, they decided to move forward with the surgery.

The doctors and nurses “huddled” in our room…and discussed the surgery to align their team and also ensure that we knew what was going on. It was a bit unnerving because we really didn’t know up until that moment if she would be able to wear her insulin pump during surgery and recovery (which would have been approximately 3 hours without basal insulin from her pump); we were prepared for any scenario, including an overnight stay. Luckily, the doctors agreed she could wear her pump during surgery.

At this point, I checked Isabella’s glucose…she was at about 90, which is generally a decent level; but, she still had insulin on board, which meant she would be dropping lower. This was concerning, especially given the uncertain effects of the anesthesia and her cold. After a bit of discussion, the doctors agreed to let us give her about 2.5 grams of glucose gel, which we were hoping would be enough to combat the insulin, while they prepped her for surgery and hooked her up to an IV (which they could use to give her glucose, if needed).

As we weren’t permitted in the operating room this meant the anesthesiologist would be in charge of monitoring Isabella’s glucose levels and applying insulin, if needed. We knew she would be checked at least once per hour and they would handle corrections as needed, but we had no idea how her body would react to the anesthesia, so we were quite nervous. It didn’t help at all when the anesthesiologist turned to me and asked, “Can you show me how to use her pump?”

I nearly grabbed Isabella and ran for the exit! I took a deep breath and literally gave a 5 minute crash course on how to use her OmniPod. I really wasn’t feeling too good at that moment. I calmly began to explain all of the backup supplies in her kit, including the insulin pen in case the pod stopped working or in the event they had to remove the pod unexpectedly.  I felt like I was being rushed along since they were getting very close to the surgery start time. I kept thinking I was forgetting some important detail.

Surprisingly, I was not at all concerned about the actual surgical procedures they were about to perform, but I was terrified about the uncertainty surrounding Isabella’s T1D. As much as I tried not to think about it, I couldn’t help but recall the recent national news story about a young girl who went for a “routine” procedure, which ended tragically for her and her family. That was without T1D involved.

The anesthesiologist told us it was time for Isabella to go back to the operating room and be prepped for surgery. Isabella, of course, chose to have her mommy join her while they applied the anesthesia. I gave Isabella a kiss goodbye and told her I loved her and that I would see her soon. Isabella, Kristina and the doctor left the room and there I was standing all alone, with tears welling up in my eyes. I sat down and prayed that my little girl would be protected and that her doctors would make the right decisions to ensure a successful surgery and quick recovery.

A few minutes later, Kristina returned and we left for the waiting room. While we waited, we received periodic updates on the pager provided by the hospital. This was a nice feature as it kept us up to speed on the surgery.  That being said, I nearly jumped out of my chair the first time the pager vibrated. Luckily, it only read, “Surgery began at 9:59am.” About 30 minutes later, another alert read “Patient still in surgery. Everything’s going well.” Everything’s going well! What great news!

It wasn’t until after the surgery when we met Isabella in recovery that the doctor told us that her blood sugar dropped to 60 during surgery, at which point they started glucose through her IV drip and she began to slowly climb back up. It was probably a good thing that we didn’t know that as we would have both been a nervous wreck.

Isabella was sleeping soundly and looked so cute laying there. I sat there watching her sleep with an IV, heart rate monitor and various machines beeping in the background.  My mind immediately took me back to August 28, 2012 when Kristina and I sat in a similar hospital room in Mexico City shortly after Isa was diagnosed with T1D. Seems so long ago.

Then Isa started to move around a little bit as she was waking up. I jumped up from my seat and gave her a kiss on the forehead and told her she did so well and that I was so proud of her. The nurse said we could pick her up and hold her. Isabella, of course, wanted mommy to hold her (I’m sensing a pattern here!). She was very happy when they brought her a “purple-flavored” popsicle, her first meal since the night before.

All of the nurses and doctors kept commenting on how mature Isabella is and how much older she seems. Unfortunately, her life is not that of an average child due to her T1D. She has been forced at such a young age to exhibit strength, bravery and courage that most adults, including myself, have not had to deal with in their lifetimes.

I am truly Inspired by Isabella. Are you?
~Greg

It’s About More Than Us…

05.08.13-Daily-Inspirational-Quotes-as-ifYesterday we were excited to see Isabella’s story on the front page of our local newspaper, the Nordonia News Leader. We’ve been blessed to have had our story shared via several media outlets over the past few weeks and are grateful for the many family and friends who’ve supported us as we move into our second year of life with type 1 diabetes.

However, no matter how much exposure our story gets, or how many times Isabella’s adorable face is featured in an article or website, the truth is that she is just one of hundreds of thousands of people affected by this disease.  JDRF estimates that the rate of T1D in children under 14 will continue to increase by 3% each year.  Though more and more children will continue to be diagnosed,  two things remain the same:

1) There is no defined cause and

2) There is no cure.

 

After our story ran in the newspaper yesterday I received the following message from a local mom:

“Hello, I just read your inspiring story about Isabella. Thank you for raising awareness about this condition. My son is also a type 1 diabetic. It’s amazing how far he has come with this over the years. When my son was first diagnosed there were 16 children in our district with this condition.We have come a long way since then. I know how you feel. I really do. I’m a single Mom so many days can be hard. I thought my son’s condition would limit him but I have been so wrong. Last year he was on the football team and in band. Your daughter is beautiful. I so hope and pray for a cure soon.Thank you for sharing your story. It really makes people also feel like they are not alone.”

And this, friends, is why we are doing what we are doing.

Cheers to Changing the World,
Kristina