Back to it. Back to that new normal life…where diabetes isn’t in it 24/7. It is still strange but this past week with my son was also a bit of an awakening. One in which perhaps more people should be exposed to.
My son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes over 14 years ago. He lived with me the bulk of that time. In September he chose to move to finish high school with his lifelong friends. It killed me inside but it was a choice that he had to make.
In the past six months, I have not had to get up in the middle of the night to test bg levels, but I still wake up. I haven’t had to worry about site changes but I still am in charge of ordering supplies. My role has changed. It is still taking some getting used to.
I was thrown back into the fray last week. Diabetes came back into my life in a huge way. It gave me a new respect for my son and for all people with diabetes. It brought a new pain to my heart. I wished that others could have seen what I saw and experienced what my son experienced. Perhaps if more people did, then more doctors would fully get it. Perhaps if more people did then more politicians and insurance companies would understand. Perhaps then more research projects would be funded and there would be a greater understanding and drive for a cure.
My son arrived on a Monday after a 10 hour day of driving. He was high. I asked him what was up. He explained. “I should have set an increased basal rate to cover all of that inactivity driving in the truck. I ate at a fast food restaurant but the meal I chose wasn’t too high in fat. I may also need a site change.”
I looked up the meal that he had eaten. It was a lot higher in fat than he had thought. We discussed extending boluses to cover those high fat meals. We talked formulas and I hoped that he might remember the concept the next time he ate out.
Because of those small oversights, he was high for the rest of the evening. He went through gallons of water and found it hard to socialize when he was spending so much time in the washroom.
His visit continued this way. There were highs. There were logical reasons for them. There were mistakes made. He is only human. Together we worked to fix them. There were injections and new sites. Sites fell out and got kinked. There were replacement sites and more injections to cover the missed insulin and bring him down. There was more water. He spent more time in the washroom.
I was exhausted. He took it all in stride. We discussed strategies. I suggested changing sites a little sooner when he was having highs. He told me that when he got too high he felt a burning in his legs and after a bit he would smell a strange smell. He said it was like his brain was frying because he was so high and he would smell it happening. My heart broke.
After days of “stuff happening”…a bad site, a poor carbohydrate calculation, a bolus delivered wrong, we finally saw him in range for longer than an hour. He was able to sleep through the night without a trip to the washroom every half an hour. He was able to put down the water bottle and enjoy a casual glass of diet Dr. Pepper. The battle was over and he had won. The war would continue another day however.
As he got on the plane for his trip home, my hands-on role ended. I was no longer in the trenches with him until he had another break and came to visit. That was not the case for him. His battle would continue on the plane where I learned after he landed, that the air pressure of the plane would impact the insulin delivery on his pump. Once again, after the fact we would know the reason behind a high or low but were at that point powerless to stop it. We hadn’t known.
How stressful must this be for a person living with diabetes? My son told me how his doctor lectured him when he goes to his appointments (although I am guessing that the bulk of his lectures are just). He stated that he the CDE he was sent to was more concerned with reading him documents than teaching him something useful. He is just beginning his journey of learning to be his own advocate.
As much as I complain about his lack of self care. Each time we talk, I am amazed at how much he does know about his own care. Some of the information he has heard from my lecturing and teaching, as well as the things he has learned at CWD conferences has sunk in. He is a teen and may not always do what he is supposed to but he does have the knowledge when he chooses to apply.
It will be up to him to apply the knowledge. It will be up to him to show his medical team that he is very educated in his care. It will be up to him to decide to take care of his body. It is a huge challenge. As people who do not have diabetes, it can be easy for us to judge and demand better. It only makes sense to take care of you. You will feel better. It’s not always that easy. Stuff happens.
This week was exhausting and I didn’t have the physical toll that he did. I was the coach on the sidelines, offering help when I could. I made suggestions, I took over care, I carried a small amount of the burden but he carried the bulk of the weight.
I could see him sitting in a meeting with his diabetes team and having them see this past week’s readings. There would be questions. Would he feel defensive? I would have. Would he feel judged? I would have. Did he do his best? Yes. Do the numbers look like it? No…and yes. Readings were high, but then we had a victory and things came down…before the next stumble and up they went. Should we have known better? Yes…and no. Yes, he knows to increase his basal when traveling but no he didn’t know the carb counts for some of the restaurant foods. Even with calorie counting software, errors were made. How could we have known that the site that went into his leg would bend—twice? There are so many factors going into managing diabetes. Even for those of us who have lived beside someone for 14 years, we can’t fully understand.
As a parent it is torture. I want to fix this. I want to take it from him. He doesn’t ask me to. He knows that I will do my best. When he stumbles or appears not to take care of himself the way that I would like to see, I get upset and even angry. I understand the toll that it can take on his body. I know the toll that a causal attitude will take on him long term. I know that he has the knowledge and I pray he will chose to use it sooner rather than later. I don’t always remember the struggle to balance being a teen boy and being a person with diabetes however. It has to be hard.
I won’t quit demanding the best from him. I won’t be able to stop being disappointed when I don’t see adequate testing. I will take this week and use it as I go forward however. It has been a great lesson to share when advocating for better care for people with diabetes. It has given me a new respect for all that my son deals with when Mom isn’t there to carry some of the burden. It has reminded me of how much diabetes sucks and how despite the fact that a lot has changed in 14 years, we still have a long way to go.