I realized how little I knew about Type 1 Diabetes when it joined my family in August 2007.
My sweet little girl was diagnosed with Type 1 the day she turned 17 months old. For several weeks leading up to that day, she had been grouchy and was not herself. She was drinking a lot more than usual and soaking through diapers. I was changing her sheets every morning and after every nap. She was hungry all the time.
“Mommy intuition” told me that something wasn’t right, so we went to the pediatrician. They checked her with a blood glucose meter and 445 appeared on the screen. 80 to 100 is part of a normal range.
We rushed to the hospital, where my husband and I spent one night with our daughter, trying to get a grasp on how this diagnosis would impact her life. What it would mean for our family.
We found out she could still eat the same foods she always ate — pizza, chicken nuggets, ice cream, etc. We agreed on the motto, “kid first, diabetic second.” If we could count the carbohydrates, she could eat it. It’s a myth that diabetics cannot eat sweets.
We learned that Type 1 was not an exact science; what works one day won’t work the next. Especially with a child, growth spurts and temper tantrums can affect blood sugar. So can exercise and illness. Controlling blood sugar can be a frustrating, exhausting process.
In the years following her diagnosis, we became pretty adept at counting carbs, pricking her fingers to test blood sugar levels and injecting insulin with her meals. Our daughter takes everything in stride and enjoys doing the same things as other kids her age.
She even became a big sister when our son was born in 2009.
And we found out just how resilient and amazing our daughter was the day that little boy was also diagnosed with Type 1, one month shy of his second birthday.
The same signs were there for him, too. This time I knew what they meant.
I wasn’t sure how she would react when I told her, but she was excited that her brother would be just like her. She looked at me in surprise and said, “Why are you crying, Mommy? It’s no big deal. He’s going to be fine.” Leave it to a 5-year old to put life into perspective!
So we do the best we can for our children by giving them as normal of a life as possible, all while trying to keep their blood sugar levels in range. We participate in walks to raise money for research — our daughter will even be an ambassador this October in the Central PA Step Out Walk to Fight Diabetes.
According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), www.jdrf.org, Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age but most commonly is diagnosed from infancy to the late 30s. In this type of diabetes, a person’s pancreas produces little or no insulin. Type 1 occurs when the body’s own defense system (the immune system) attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. People with Type 1 must inject insulin several times every day or continually infuse insulin through a pump.
While its causes are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle. There is nothing you can do to prevent T1D, and — at present — nothing you can do to get rid of it.
Fundraising to support research to prevent or cure diabetes is important. On Sunday, May 20, the JDRF is bringing the Walk to Cure Diabetes to Lancaster. Registration will open at 9:30 AM and the walk will begin at 11 a.m. Food and family-friendly activities will be provided, along with music by FM 97.
For information on volunteering at the Walk to Cure Diabetes, the Walk planning committee or for all other inquiries, contact Erica Croce at 717-269-8522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: Jen Baker somehow manages to write for Smart magazine in between caring for her two young diabetic children. She is an inspiration to me, and I thank her for sharing her story. — Kara