Shaping Friendships

Just before Thanksgiving the stars aligned and just like eHarmony for the T1D world (dHarmony?) we met a sassy blogger online named Libby. A twenty-something who also happens to be pancreatically-challenged, Libby asked us if she could interview us for her blog and we were pumped (pun totally intended).

I told Isabella that a new friend with T1D wanted to interview her…which set off a string of questions about who this mystery girl was, what kind of ice cream she likes and whether or not she’d seen Frozen. She was excited and I was, too.

After our interview with Libby (which was chocked full of so much awesome that I’ll let you read it yourself) we decided we wanted to send her a thank you card and one of our fab Inspired by Isabella t-shirts. Of course, being 4 years old and looking for any excuse to get marker on my nice, Amish-made table channel her inner Warhol, Isabella said SHE wanted to make the card. The “card” turned into half a dozen drawings and notes, dictated letter by letter by me, to our new friend Libby.

“Does ‘Libby’ begin with an ‘L’, mom?”

“Are there one or two ‘o’s in ‘love’?”

“How do you spell ‘best friend’?”

And that right there made my eyes start to leak.

Isabella brought me her stack of notes and drawings and as I thumbed through them I stopped at one. It was a drawing she had made of her and her new BFF, surrounded by flowers and a rainbow, their names scribbled to indicate who was who.

libby

It was hard not to notice the numerous shapes Isabella had drawn up and down the two figures, seemingly random.

“I love this drawing, Isa. Can you tell me what these shapes are on you two?”

“Those are our sites…for our pumps and cgms.”

And I could feel my heart sink.

But then I noticed something else. Smiles. Both the stick figure image of Isabella on the paper and the pigtailed toddler standing in front of me had smiles spread across their faces.

And I knew. I knew that Isabella had found someone else she could draw who also had shapes running up and down them like a highway of reminders of this disease. She was smiling because she had found someone to look up to and to show her that she shouldn’t be ashamed of these shapes. And while her shapes will never define her, they are a part of her story.

Thank you, Libby, for helping Isabella embrace her shapes…and for sharing her journey.

Cheers to Changing the World~
Kristina

Three Words: Reflections from Friends for Life

fflI had just finished participating in DSMA (Diabetes Social Media Advocacy), the live Twitter chat that happens every Wednesday night at 9pm EST (which I’ve suddenly become addicted to). It was around 10:30pm and I finally sat down to write my blog post, reflecting on the Children with Diabetes “Friends for Life Conference” that we attended in early July. I typed my initial thought for the headline and an opening sentence…

That’s when I heard the crying and screams.

It was Isabella. She had been in bed and presumably asleep for an hour or two but was now awake and crying. I went upstairs to check on her…but she was already coming down the hallway on her way downstairs to see us. I asked what was wrong and she continued to cry; unfortunately, this scenario is not entirely unusual when you have nearly 4-year-old triplets who never want to go to sleep at night. Admittedly frustrated, I scooped her up and immediately knew something was wrong. Her little body felt like it was in a cold sweat. She continued to cry and wiggle around as she wrapped her arms tightly around me.

I suspected that her blood glucose was still very high (her levels had been high since we changed her insulin pod several hours earlier). I pulled out her meter and confirmed that she was in fact high (471!).  In and of itself this is not terribly concerning as her level can vary widely (after all, she’s a growing toddler!) and the solution is fairly straightforward – give her insulin to bring her level back down. The problem was that her level had been high for several hours and it was now clear that the insulin we had already given her didn’t seem to be having the desired effect of reducing her blood sugar level. Her pod likely wasn’t functioning or had come loose, which we hadn’t realized earlier.

We checked for ketones; if present in the bloodstream, ketones can lead to DKA, or ketoacidosis (resulting in a coma or worse). For the first time since her diagnosis, Isa had “medium to large” ketones, which is approaching very dangerous levels. I called the hospital emergency line to reach the on-call endocrinologist, and had prepared myself for what I thought would be our first diabetes-related visit to the ER since her diagnosis nearly two years ago. The doctor suspected that Isabella’s pump had not been delivering insulin for several hours and suggested we give her an insulin injection. Isa was scared…I guess she had already forgotten, or at least didn’t want to remember, the nearly fifteen-hundred insulin shots she received during her second year of her life. We replaced her pod and gave her an injection of insulin for the first time since she started on her OmniPod nearly 12 months earlier. Thankfully, within a couple of hours, her level came back down into range. With that, our diabetes crisis was averted.

I never did finish my “FFL reflections” blog post that night, so I wanted to finally share some thoughts. As I reflect on the conference, three words come to mind: inspired, hopeful and proud. Here are a few reasons why…

Inspired

  • We met and had the opportunity to hear from several athletes living with T1D that have accomplished amazing things: Jay Hewitt, Ryan Reed, Charlie Kimball, Sebastien Sasseville. These individuals truly inspire us and are great role models for our daughter; they remind us that anything is possible!
  • We met many great families, some of which we had already “met” in the DOC; I’m inspired by how they manage through this challenge day-after-day, month-after-month, year-after-year…while keeping a positive attitude, continuing to raise awareness and finding ways to overcome “diabetes burnout.”

    ffl mila

    Finally Meeting The Ferrer Family of “Jaime, Mi Dulce Guerrero”. Somos Amigos Para Toda La Vida!

Hopeful

  • We had the opportunity to hear about the Bionic Pancreas, a medical device currently being developed and tested by Dr. Ed Damiano and his team at Boston University. Dr. Damiano began developing this device as a commitment to his son, who was diagnosed with T1D at just 11 months old (he’s now 15). The technology is amazing and would enable Isabella and many others to live without having to worry or even think about diabetes every single day.
  • Isa started a trial of a Dexcom G4 CGM (continuous glucose monitor) during the conference. This was made possible by Jeff Hitchcock, Founder & President of Children With Diabetes, who asked if we were interested in participating in the trial. Jeff helped arrange everything with theDexcom team (who, by the way, are an amazing group of people!), and we were off. We’re hopeful her newDexcom CGM will help provide us with information to make more informed decisions about managing her diabetes…and will provide us with some sleep-FILLED nights!

    ffl jeff

    One of our Friends for Life – Jeff Hitchcock, Founder & President of Children With Diabetes

Proud

  • I was so proud to see Isabella seek out others with green bracelets (all those with T1D were wearing green bracelets) to introduce herself and say “I have diabetes, too!” She was so proud to show off her OmniPod and her new Dexcom…and that made me smile as I want her to be proud of who she is, embrace the challenges in her life and turn them into opportunities.
  • Isabella and her triplet siblings, Mia and Max, made so many new friends during the conference and I know they will truly make “Friends for Life” as a result of attendingFFL each year. That makes me one proud papa!

    ffl lenny

    The Trio with Lenny the Lion!

Overall, the conference was once again amazing. It is truly a great feeling to be with 800 other families that understand exactly what type one diabetes is all about and how it affects our family, both emotionally and physically (thank you to the family that gave me juice to treat Isa’s low by the pool!). The conference sessions are great and informative, but interacting with others affected by T1D and hearing about the amazing things they’ve accomplished living with diabetes is what makes this conference so special. Can’t wait for next year’s conference!

-Greg

 

Now, we wait.

trioChecking…

Checking…

We stared intently at the meter, seemingly taking forever to provide a blood sugar reading.

Checking…

Checking…

84.

And with that we released a sigh of relief. Today would not be the day we had another child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Nope, not today.

This wouldn’t be the first time we’d checked one of the other kid’s blood sugar…and it probably won’t be the last.

Since Isabella’s diagnosis almost two years ago it’s become commonplace for people we meet to express their surprise that just one of our trio has T1D.

“She’s the only one? Hmmm, that’s so interesting.”

“Are you worried about the other two ‘getting it’?”

“Well, you know the warning signs so you’ll be prepared if it does happen.”

“At least you know how to manage it already.”

Truth…but a painful one to think about.

During the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life Conference in 2013 we learned about TrialNet – a two-part clinical study being conducted by “an international network of researchers who are exploring ways to prevent, delay and reverse the progression of type 1 diabetes.” We stopped by the TrialNet table during the conference and spoke with someone about our family participating in the screening that checks for autoantibodies that are predictors of type 1 diabetes development.

We left the table with a stack of forms to complete so that Isabella’s brother and sister, as well as Greg and I, could be tested during the conference. As we packed our bags four days later I remember tossing the papers into the hotel room trash can. We couldn’t do it.

There are many schools of thought on whether it’s better to know that something bad is inevitable, or to live life as it is and just take what is handed to you as it comes. Would we do anything differently if we knew, with a good amount of certainty, that one or both of Isabella’s siblings would also develop type 1? Would it change the way we are living our life today? Would we just be in a static state of paranoia – checking their blood sugar regularly to see if ‘today is the day’?

The answer is: I don’t know.

You never know how you’ll react to news you don’t want to hear. You never know if you’ll be able to hold it together so that your kids don’t see the breaking of the Hoover Dam that is bound to happen behind your eyes. You never know if you’ll wait…and wait…and wait…for nothing to ever happen.

And you never know how strong you are until that’s the only option you have.

Two weeks ago during this year’s Friends for Life Conference our TrialNet paperwork made its way to the scientists. We all held out our arms for the blood draw that will ultimately let us know if anyone else in our house has the autoantibodies that predict type 1 diabetes. Two weeks ago we made a decision that we wanted to help advance the research into this disease and that, by participating in this study, we would be helping scientists understand more about T1D and move towards finding a cure.

Sitting at the hotel pool later that day I met a woman who told me her non-type 1 child had participated in TrialNet the year before. She told me, with tears forming behind her sunglasses, that the day they got the phone call with the results was harder than the day her type 1 child was diagnosed. The test had come back positive for the autoantibodies. Now, she told me, they just live in a state of limbo since, technically, her other child hasn’t been diagnosed. A state of limbo waiting for the excessive thirst, frequent urination, weight loss…waiting for the day they “officially” become a family with two kids with type 1 diabetes.

So now we wait. But we wait knowing that, regardless of the call we might receive in a few months when our results are ready, we are part of a bigger picture. A picture of hope that one day two mothers can sit on the poolside watching their children play – no medical devices attached to their bodies keeping them alive – like kids should do…without a care in the world.

Now, we wait.

Cheers to Changing the World~
Kristina

Grandma Gets It: Diabetes and Disney

*Our family had the opportunity to attend this year’s Children With Diabetes ‘Friends for Life’ Conference held each summer in Orlando.  This was our second year attending the conference and we decided to invite one of Isabella’s grandmothers, Darlene, to join us. While we will be sharing our own thoughts on the conference (look for 2 additional posts from us with our mom & dad reflections), we also asked “Grandma Dar Dar” to write a guest blog about her experience.  We hope it will encourage other grandparents, aunts, uncles, and extended family to consider learning more about caring for a child with type 1 diabetes…the more people a family has on their diabetes care team, the better!

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A great night at the Friends for Life banquet!

I spent an incredible week with my son Greg, daughter-in-law Kristina and triplet grandchildren, Isabella, Mia and Max in Orlando for the Children with Diabetes Friends for Life conference. When they invited me to go with them, I had no idea what all was involved.

The conference didn’t start until Wednesday so we spent the first 2 1/2 days at the Disney parks and it was such fun. I think we stood in line to see every Disney princess possible…as well as Mickey and Minnie. The kids were so excited.

We went on rides, too, and while waiting in line for one ride, Isabella pointed to a little girl in front of us and said that she had a green bracelet on. Her dad asked her what it meant and she said that the girl had diabetes. We hadn’t signed in for the conference yet but, when you sign in, you get a green paper bracelet if you have T1D and an orange bracelet for those who do not have T1D. Isa remembered this from the previous year and it amazed me that she remembered this. Then Isa showed the little girl her OmniPod insulin pod.

When you go somewhere with children you have to take extra clothes, snacks, diapers or Pull-Ups, if needed. When your child has T1D you also need to bring glucose tablets, juice boxes, insulin, a glucometer and glucagon (an injection in case the blood sugar drops too low). Greg and Kristina checked Isabella’s glucose level frequently throughout the day. While we were waiting for the shuttle to take us back to the hotel, the kids were running around and all of a sudden, Isa was just standing there and said she was tired. Greg immediately checked her glucose level and it was in the low 50s so they gave her a juice box to bring it back up. This made me realize that she needs to be checked frequently…and it is a big responsibility.

At the conference I attended a number of sessions for grandparents and learned a lot. Even though I am a retired nurse, I didn’t know a lot about T1D and how to handle the highs and lows since so much has changed with the use of pumps and continuous glucose monitors(CGM). You really need to be on top of things and recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar.

I have also been very concerned about the complications of diabetes and worried for my beautiful granddaughter but ,after attending one session, I was relieved to learn that long-term complications usually only occur if the blood sugar has been high(250-300 or more) for an extended period of time. In fact, one presenter has had diabetes for 55 years and is doing fine.

An interesting statistic is that 15,000 children per year are diagnosed with T1D. A doctor at the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) in Miami, Dr. Chris Fraker, has found a correlation between certain viruses and T1D and hopes that one day if they can find a way to stop the viruses from destroying the islet cells in the pancreas which produce insulin, then diabetes will be cured.

Many who attended the conference have been coming for years and have developed friendships. It was so great to see the older kids interact with Isa and when Isa saw someone with a green bracelet, she wanted to meet them and show them her insulin pump or the Dexcom CGM she just stared using. 

We heard from athletes with T 1D who have done amazing things like competed in NASCAR and Indy car races (Ryan Reed and Charlie Kimball), doing triathlons (Jay Hewitt), and one young man who is running four marathons per week for nine months across Canada (Sebastian Sasseville) and they are an inspiration to the young people with T1D and show them that they can do anything they set their sights on.

It was a wonderful week and one that I will always remember. 

-Darlene

Suiting Up

isasmile

“Celebrities with Type 1”

“Type 1 Famous People”

“Professional Athletes with Diabetes”

After Isabella’s diagnosis I searched. I searched…and I hoped.  I searched and I found what I had been so sure existed.  And I was relieved. Relieved to know that our daughter had “them” on her side.  She would have “them” to provide the name we needed to trigger some recognition…to trigger some action. I knew that as long as we could count on these people, there was no way Isabella would be living with Type 1 Diabetes ten years from now.

It’s their responsibility, after all…isn’t it?

This morning R&B star Usher announced on the TODAY Show that one of his young sons was diagnosed with T1D this past year .

“This year has been really one of my hardest years – I lost my grandmother, my son was diagnosed as being a type one diabetic. It has definitely been a difficult one for me, man,” he said. 

And with that admission, we scored big. Suit up, Mr. Raymond, and take your place alongside Ray Allen, Nick Jonas, Bret Michaels, Jay Cutler and the handful of others whose families have been turned upside down by a T1D diagnosis. Suit up and get ready for one of the most important gigs of your life.  Suit up and be prepared to be an advocate for…

Your son.

Yes, it’s a bonus for us to have someone like you on our team. Yes, the exposure your son’s diagnosis will give to this disease affecting so many of our families will help us to raise awareness and educate others. Yes, we hope your celebrity status will help us raise funds to aid in our search for a cure.

But that’s not your job right now.

Right now you’re a dad to a son who needs you…more than he’s ever needed you before. And that, my fellow substitute pancreas, is your job.

And when you’re ready, your team is here waiting for you…and we’re all warmed up.

Cheers to Changing the World~
Kristina

 

 

 

What I Signed Up For

Trio

“I’m so sorry…I know you were just here.”

“It’s fine. It’s what I signed up for.”

I jump in my car, still warm from my return trip picking up a sick son just 30 minutes earlier, and head to the preschool to tend to an insulin pump that is screaming its head off…the 6th insulin pod in a box of 10 to bite the dust before the 3-day window closed.

But, this is what I signed up for.

Last month I made a quick stop at Macy’s and, as has become customary since our trio arrived, I spent the entire time flipping through the clearance rack in the kid’s department.

I stepped up to the checkout counter, my arms filled with Dora jammies and Hello Kitty flair, proud of my deal-seeking skills.

 

“Wow! Do the girls you are buying for know that they’re getting some cute new things?”

“Actually, these are for my daughters.”

“Oh, you have twin girls?”

“Well, I have triplets…two girls and a boy.”

“Holy cow! What did you do when you found out you were having TRIPLETS?!? I would have hung myself.”

And…scene.

The sad truth is that this isn’t the first time someone has said something like this to me. In fact most people I meet who learn that we not only have triplets, but that one of them also has type 1 diabetes, express their sympathy to me in varying forms.

But, this is what I signed up for.

When I was young I used to say that I didn’t know if I wanted to have children…I knew I had a selfish side. I wanted to be successful professionally. I wanted to travel. I wanted to have the freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted.

And then things changed. I wanted to be a mom.

But it wasn’t that easy. Not easy at all. Like, 5 years not easy.

It’s not until you realize that there’s a possibility… a real possibility…that you can’t have kids that you realize whether or not you are meant to be a parent. I realized I had been wrong.

I wanted someone to call me “Mommy”. I wanted someone to ask me to tuck them in at night and assure them that there were no monsters in the closet. I wanted someone to ask me why the moon goes to sleep during the day and why Donald Duck doesn’t wear pants.

That is what I signed up for.

When people ask me “How do you do it?” the answer is actually pretty simple…how could I not? I don’t know any different.

When you become a parent you are making a commitment to one thing: to love your children…no matter what. We don’t get to choose what challenges come with parenthood. We don’t get to decide what we can handle and what we can’t…that’s done for us. What we do get to play a role in is HOW we parent and HOW we show our children that we love them.  Did I sign up for diabetes? Of course not.  But I did sign up for being a mom…diabetes or not.

I am constantly amazed by the number of friends we have whose children are facing challenges including type 1 diabetes, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Apraxia, severe food allergies, and many more. Did any of us know or envision our children’s lives being consumed by these challenges? No way. Did any of us know we would soon become advocates, fundraisers, and educators about these diseases/disorders? Not a clue.

But, we have…because that’s what we signed up for.

Cheers to Changing the World~

Kristina

 

Offending ‘Miss Manners’

 

BGCheck

Earlier this week advice columnist Judith Martin, whose Miss Manners column is carried by more than 200 newspapers worldwide, responded to a reader’s question regarding whether or not those with diabetes should check their blood sugar in public settings.  Her response was a column entitled “Do Diabetic Testing in Private” and included the following paragraph:

Absent an emergency, medical applications (like bodily functions and grooming) are properly done out of sight — meaning in private or in a restroom — unless they can be done so surreptitiously as to be unrecognizable as such.

As a father of a child with type 1 diabetes, I felt I needed to respond to her and, after writing, decided my message should be shared publicly with all of you.

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Dear Miss Manners,

I read your recent response to the gentleman inquiring about testing his blood in public. While you are certainly entitled to your opinions, your response shows  ignorance and lack of education about type one diabetes (T1D), as well as a lack of compassion for those living with T1D and their caretakers. As a father of a three and a half year old with T1D, I must say that I was completely appalled by your response.

My daughter, Isabella, was diagnosed with T1D in August 2012, just two weeks before her second birthday. She spent four long days in the hospital after her diagnosis while the doctors pumped her tiny body full of insulin. During that time the doctors and nurses educated us about type one diabetes, an autoimmune disease that we knew nothing about until that moment. We learned that had we not caught some of the symptoms early on, our daughter may have slipped into a coma or worse in a matter or days. We learned that our daughter’s life would never be the same. We also learned that we would have to check her blood glucose levels at least 8-10 times per day, count every carb that she consumes and give her insulin injections at least four times per day.

 This became Isabella’s new “normal” life. What we know, and you likely do not, is that failure to closely monitor her glucose, properly count carbs or administer precise amounts of insulin could ultimately lead to our daughter’s death. Therefore, I view every single moment of every single day (awake and asleep) as an emergency. Our daughter’s life literally depends on frequent blood checks and insulin. We have always checked Isabella’s blood in public and administered insulin injections in public, as well. We have always taught Isabella that T1D is a part of her life and she should never be ashamed or embarrassed about it, nor ever let it define her. And, even at three and a half years old, she has embraced her diabetes, checks her own blood sugar and loves talking about her diabetes with anyone that will listen. We would never suggest that she stop doing any of those things because there is a chance that it might make others uncomfortable.

Isabella now wears an insulin pump that is physically attached to her body at all times. We are often asked about the device, which gives us an opportunity to educate others and raise awareness at the same time. I would never even think about covering it up simply so that no one else can see it (so they don’t become uncomfortable about my daughter’s diabetes, I suppose, according to your logic).

The reality is that Isabella is different than other kids, including her triplet brother and sister….however, we would never make her feel different and ashamed by hurrying her off to the restroom every time we have to check her blood sugar when we’re out in public. We believe it is extremely important that she is completely comfortable talking about her diabetes and the effects it has on her life, physically and emotionally, now at only three and a half years old and as she gets older.

We want Isabella to share her story with the world. As her parents, that’s exactly what we have been doing for the past year and a half and will continue to do so until a cure is found for our daughter and millions of others living with this terrible disease. I can assure you that observing a simple finger prick is nowhere near as uncomfortable as what my daughter and millions of others go through every day of their lives.

Your column only motivates us even more and reminds us that we still have a lot of work to do to educate others and raise awareness.

-Greg Dooley

www.InspiredbyIsabella.com

#TeachableMoments

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 2.06.08 PMWords can’t express how jazzed (yes, I said jazzed) Isabella and her siblings were this morning for their big Valentine’s Day party at school. It was so wonderful to see the true excitement on their faces when I told them they could FINALLY give their Valentine’s to their classmates.  I asked Isa if she would share her treats with me when she got home from school and a huge smile spread across her face.

“I’m going to get treats? What kind, mom?”

“I don’t know, chica.  I think you’ll probably get some cards from your friends and maybe some candy or cookies.”

“YAY!!!!!”

And just like that her day was made.

It’s days like today that I’m glad Isabella can’t read yet. It’s occasions  like Valentine’s Day and Halloween when I get to witness just how much misunderstanding and lack of education there exists about diabetes, both Type 1 and Type 2.

I am a regular Twitter user and we use our @InspiredbyIsa account to share info about our experience with T1D and  follow our friends in the Diabetes Online Community (DOC).

Two hashtags today, when combined, made my heart sink: #Diabetes #Valentines.

I don’t think I need to explain why…instead I’ll just share a sample of what I saw with all of you.

This. This is why we are doing what we are doing to raise awareness.

And you know what?

Today Isabella WILL come home with diabetes.  Just like she has for the past 535 days…just like she will until a cure is found. And she WILL share her treats with me.

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