Love and Life

pancreas heartWhile the kids eat dinner I sort through the pile of papers they bring home from preschool each day. Sheet after sheet of drawings, letters, numbers…indicators of their expanding knowledge and growing imaginations.

An intricately drawn image of Batman taking a nap while Daniel Tiger builds a snowman. And that large green square? That’s their recycle bin, duh.

A rainbow…minus brown because, well, “that’s an icky color.”

And a shiny red pancreas…no question to whom it belongs, the letters I-S-A staring up at me from the paper.

“Hey, Isa, did you draw this pancreas?”

“What pancreas?”

“This red one…with your name on it.”

“That’s not a pancreas…that’s a heart, mom.” (Insert frowny 4-year-old face)

I stared at the drawing that just a minute before I was sure was an exact replica of the I Heart Guts pancreas pillow we’d given Isabella a year ago.

I stared at the drawing that I assumed was my daughter’s way of illustrating a dream she has. Just as Mia dreams of sunny days after the rain, and Max of saving the earth one less landfill and bad guy at a time, Isa dreams of a pancreas that would just do its darn job already.

I stared at the drawing and realized that my interpretation of what Isabella had drawn wasn’t necessarily her dream…but mine. My interpretation was what I assume she spends her time thinking about: life without this disease. Life without needles and finger pricks. Life without carb counting and unpredictable highs and dangerous lows. These are the things I dream about…

But that isn’t what SHE dreams about. This heart…red and emblazoned with I-S-A…this is the organ that matters most to my daughter right now. A symbol of love and, most importantly, LIFE.

While I might secretly wish that Isabella understood how different her life would be without T1D, it’s days like this that I’m reminded that she is not defined by this disease. I’m reminded that she is allowed to have dreams filled with Sophia the First and cupcakes, without a test strip in sight. Her dreams don’t have to mirror mine. Life for her can, and SHOULD, be about more than her disease. Much more.

And while a teeny piece of me was excited that she’d drawn a pretty great pancreas, another part of me was happy to hear that diabetes isn’t the first thing that pops into her mind each day.  In fact, it’s probably not even the fifteenth thing.

So I say to my little one: You just keep dreaming of giant red hearts because that right there? That is the organ that truly matters most.

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

A Reflection on Linens

 

Scarred fingertips: the shared badge of those with T1D...even at age 3.

Scarred fingertips: The badge Isabella shares with others with Type 1 Diabetes.

I pull the matching pink quilts out of the dryer and head upstairs to do what I always tell Greg is my least favorite house-cleaning task: changing sheets. Before dropping off each quilt in the girl’s rooms I hold them up to determine whose is whose. Two years ago these quilts were identical in every way.

But today they are different.

One still has the bright pink glow that got me to succumb to purchasing a non-sale item from Pottery Barn Kids.

The other is faded from too-frequent washings.

One is always placed on the bed with the corner tags tickling the footboard.

The other gets rotated each time so as to distribute evenly the tiny stains of blood drops that, despite our best efforts to wipe clean little fingers after middle-of-the-night blood sugar checks, have accumulated over the past year and a half.

And so I place the quilts on the girls beds…and continue my dislike of changing sheets.

Because today they are different.

Cheers to Changing the World (and linens)~
Kristina

“But I’m not sick.”

Extraordinary DestinyThis evening while we were putting her to bed, Isabella asked why we were going running with her Aunt Shelly tomorrow morning. We told her that we were running a 5K in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to support her grandmother who has been battling breast cancer for the past 9 months. We told her in simple, but clear and direct, terms that grandma had breast cancer and had been sick, but is much better now. We then said that we were going to do a walk for her next weekend. Isabella was listening very closely…then seemed a bit concerned and said matter-of-factly, “Mommy, but I’m not sick.”

While Isabella does not look sick and certainly doesn’t act sick most days…she is literally fighting for her life, every minute of every day. While she looks and acts like a perfectly healthy three year old little girl, the reality is that Isabella needs precise amounts of insulin to survive since her body does not produce any of its own. If she eats too many carbs or doesn’t get enough insulin she could go into a coma. If she doesn’t eat enough carbs or has too much insulin her blood sugar could drop to life-threatening levels. Every day is a constant battle for her life.

At her age, Isabella doesn’t fully understand the severity of her type 1 diabetes and for now the responsibility of managing her disease falls fully on us. We often go to bed wondering if tonight is the night that we will find her unconscious and have to quickly inject her with life-saving medicine and then rush her to the ER (fortunately, we have not experienced this yet…but it is far too common for parents of small children with T1D). We check her blood most nights at 3AM (one of ~10 finger pricks each day) to ensure her glucose hasn’t plummeted or skyrocketed to dangerous levels. We can’t remember the last conversation that we had between us in which we did not talk about glucose levels, carb counts, or insulin bolus amounts.

We are in awe of how Isabella handles everything. In the past 12 months she has gone through more than any child her age should have to experience. Her strength amazes us. Isabella truly inspires us each and every day. And it pains us to think that our little girl will have to live with this disease for the rest of her life. This is why we do what we can do to raise awareness and raise funds towards research and ultimately a cure for type 1 diabetes. But we can’t do it alone….we need your help!

Thank you SO much to those of you who have already donated to support team Inspired by Isabella in the upcoming JDRF Northeast Ohio Walk to Cure Diabetes! With your help, we have raised nearly $5,500 for this year’s walk (bringing our total fundraising since Isabella’s diagnosis to over $15,000!)! BUT…we are still short of our $7,000 fundraising goal for this year!

If you have not yet made a donation, please help us achieve our goal by making a donation of any amount using the link below.  With your support, we can change the world!

http://www2.jdrf.org/site/TR?team_id=83886&fr_id=2368&pg=team