TYPE 1 DIABETES
Tyler has Type 1 Diabetes, also known as Juvenal Diabetes. He was diagnosed on July 7th, 2008. Yes I remember the date as that day changed our lives forever. We knew leading up to “D” day he would probably be diagnosed with the disease. At that time I hardly knew anything about Diabetes or the fact that there were several types of diabetes. However, a teacher at his daycare (who has Type 1 herself) noticed some of the tale-tale signs and filled us in. I thank God for her, because things could have gotten a lot worse had she not noticed the symptoms.
We started our journey at a local pediatrician’s office. He could tell immediately that Tyler had diabetes and it was out of control, just by the smell of his breath. He told us he could run some blood work and we could wait for the labs to come back just to confirm, but our best bet was to pack a bag and head to Texas Children’s Hospital. We took his advice and headed for TCH. We were seen right away and admitted that evening. Even though I knew the diagnosis was coming it didn’t make it any easier to hear. I was also hoping he had the type of diabetes where he could just take a pill everyday, but no such luck. You see, that would have meant he had Type 2 diabetes, in which the body produces insulin but is resistant to it. Type 1 quite different. Type 1 is an auto immune disease where the body attacks good cells and destroys them, in this case the Islet cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Tyler’s pancreas no longer produces insulin, thus he must receive insulin some how. I learned all of this the first few hours of our initial stay at TCH. There was much more to learn before Tyler would get to come home.
We were at TCH for three days. Each day we were trained on something new. From checking blood sugars to administering insulin injections. We even had “formal training” for all care givers to Tyler, so that everyone would be on the same page before we headed home to do it all on our own. Tyler has a great support team and there were several family members who showed up for training. We are all diabetes experts now, but it felt like we were in med school those few days. The staff was so attentive and supportive. They even checked to make sure I was ok, which surprised me. I was not the one who was just diagnosed with a life altering disease, so why should they worry about me. I guess the stress was evident on my face, even though I was doing my best to hold it together for Tyler. But on our last night in the hospital we both broke down. You see, my step-father was in the hospital next to us after suffering a cardiac arrest. He had been there a couple of weeks before we showed up at TCH. At the time we weren’t sure if he would come out of his coma and we couldn’t visit him while Tyler was a patient. Plus, Tyler has just come to live with me weeks before all of this, so he was still adjusting to life with us. In short, it was one hell of a month! When the dust was finally settling and him and I felt the worst was hopefully over the tears started falling.
The next day we received the last of our training and were set free! On our way home I started to not feel so well, my hands started shaking, and I had a hard time talking to my Mom who was sitting next to me in the car. Tyler reminded me that those were signs of low blood sugar, so he had me check myself on his new glucose meter. My blood sugar was 60! I guess those 3 days of one McDonald burger a day had caught up to me. I had to break into his snacks the staff sent home with Tyler. It took a few minutes for the sugar to get into my blood stream, but I felt so much better when it did. It was a surreal moment, because all of a sudden I felt like I could relate to how Tyler feels when his blood sugar is out of whack. I know it was nothing close to getting poked all day in the finger and in the arms, but I at least know how crappy he feels until his blood sugar is back with-in range.
We have only had to go back to TCH and stay once since that weekend in July. Tyler’s blood sugar had been high for a couple of days and he wasn’t feeling well. We checked his ketones and they were elevated so we headed to the hospital. He only spent a couple of days that time and their was no training. We got to just hang out in the room and rest. It wasn’t a cake walk, but definitely less intense that go-round.
A year after he was first diagnosed, Tyler chose to go on an insulin pump. He currently uses the One Touch Ping. The pump is worn 24/7 and delivers a little bit of insulin all day long, and he boluses (gives himself more insulin) when he eats. This replaced the multiple daily injections he was on before. With the injections he had to get a shot every time he wanted to eat. With the pump he only gets poked with a needle every three to four days. Well, he pokes his finger all day long to get blood sugar readings on his meter, but those aren’t a big deal anymore.
Tyler really prefers the pump and that was obvious the first day. After we received our training on how to use the pump him and I went out to eat lunch. He simply checked his blood sugar, calculated the carbs he would eat and dialed the info into his pump. The pump then delivered the appropriate amount of insulin with NO NEED FOR AN INJECTION!!! As soon as he bolused with the pump for the first time he looked at me and said, “I feel normal”. My heart melted. He no longer had to bring this large bag filled with syringes and insulin with us to restaurants. We didn’t have to leave the table to go give him a shot in the bathroom. No more funny looks when we felt like giving him the shot at the table instead of heading to the restroom. I get choked up just thinking about that day. I know Tyler will never get to have a “normal” life again, but anything that makes him feel more normal is worth whatever the cost.
The pump isn’t the only bit of technology we have in our arsenal. We recently started using the Dexcom G4 Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). This little thingamajig consists of a sensor that is inserted just under the skin, a transmitter that sit on top of the sensor and a receiver that shows a graph of what his blood sugar is doing. The sensor checks his blood sugar every five minutes and displays the results on a graph. I love it! I can see what his approximate blood sugar is, what it has been in the last 24 hours and where it is most likely headed. This helps us to ward off any highs or lows, as it alarms when his blood sugar is rising or falling too fast. I am even able to take the receiver to bed with me and it will wake me up when there is an issue. I still have to check his blood sugar before I decide to treat Tyler, as the CGM isn’t as accurate as his meter. But it does allow me a little more peace of mind. And it is helping to keep Tyler honest. I can now see if his blood sugar is high in between meals, which usually means he is eating and not giving himself insulin.
All in all, diabetes sucks. But there are tools out there that make life with Diabetes more manageable. I can only speak from a mother’s point of view, so perhaps Tyler will give me some insight to share on here.