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Living with type 1 diabetes, a parent's point of view
Recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes
I am writing this article to help other families who have a loved one that has recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I, by no means, am an expert but I would like to share what I have learned so far about this devastating disease.
I think it is important for me to start from the beginning. Our son, Andre was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in early September 2015. We had just come from a month's long vacation in Costa Rica. Andre has always been thin and I felt so guilty that I did not pick up on the symptoms. I remember that one evening Andre asked if I could buy gatorade and so I bought six 8 oz bottles and I thought to myself this should last a couple of days. Andre drank all six bottles that same evening. Also, when we returned from Costa Rica, Andre's mother, Maura, noticed that he had lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time. I would later find out that excessive thirst and weight loss are two of several symptoms that a person may have when suffering from diabetes.
Maura took Andre to the doctor and the doctor immediately sent him to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. After a few preliminary tests the hospital, Holy Cross, transferred Andre to Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC. The next three days, while Andre was in the hospital, I felt guilt, indescribable pain and helpless. I had heard of diabetes but I thought it developed over time in adults and as a consequence of aging combined with bad eating habits. I had no idea that children suffered from this disease and it was shocking to me that a 12 years-old with no weight issues would contract diabetes.
The Children's National Medical Center staff, especially the nurses, were great and they tried to educate us about type 1 diabetes in a slow, methodical manner so all the information we needed to know would not overwhelm us but with the emotions and stress at a very high level it was very difficult to concentrate and to their credit they knew it was too much information in such a short period of time.
Crash course to help manage diabetes
Maura and I did receive a one day course that taught us what was most important to manage diabetes when Andre left the hospital. We were still in a daze and there were so many questions that we did not know to ask but we encountered when we got home. We were told that Andre's blood glucose (bg) level, measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), should be between 70 and 180. The nurses showed us how to test his bg level, how often to test it and what to do if his bg was below 70. We were also taught how to inject Andre with insulin, four times per day. Although the doctors and nurses do not want high bg levels, over 180, we were told that the numbers would never be perfect, it seems to me that high bg levels is not as dangerous as a low bg reading, below 70.
If bg is below 70 you must do the following
If the bg level is below 70 then immediate action is required and Andre must be given something that has 15 grams of carbohydrates such as:
- 3 glucose tablets or
- 4 ounces of fruit juice or
- soft drink, regular, not diet or
- 5 or 6 hard candies.
Then we must wait 15 minutes and then check his bg level again to make sure it is above 70 mg/dl. If after 15 minutes his bg level is still below 70 then he must be given something that contains 15 grams of carbohydrates again. This process is repeated until his bg level is above 70 mg/dl.
We are very fortunate because we have, for the most part, kept Andre in the "safe zone", between 70 and 180 mg/dl. He has suffered lows (below 70) but we have been able to bring his bg level above 70 on the rate occasion he has gone low. We are very proud of how Andre is handling his diabetes.
The past seven months have been a very painful and emotional learning experience and I thank God every day for helping me get through each day. I will submit several articles in the coming days in an attempt to share my day to day experience helping Andre manage type 1 diabetes and hopefully answer questions that parents of recently diagnosed individuals may be facing.